The Voice of the Workers

Report from Building Unions Rally, Queens Park Brisbane on 2 Dec 2008.

Building site where her partner and fellow worker died
Building where her partner and fellow worker died

At the rally two women came up on stage – one was the partner of one of the workers

who had died after a fall of a swinging gantry at a Gold coast high rise (pictured) on 21 June 2008.

She asked her friend (the other woman on stage) to read out her statement about the lack of occupational health and safety that had killed her partner. Her courage matched her partner’s concern for the lack of safety on the job where he was working – where was the ABCC to prevent his death? Where was Kevin Rudd at the time? Well he was at “the Queensland Labor Party conference across the road from the site of the accident near the time it occurred” [See SMH article 25-storey death plunge]

“He offered his condolences to the victims’ families.” – Kevin Rudd as reported in SMH on 22 June 2008.

The day prior to the rally (1 December 2008) two workers were struck by a falling beam in a bus tunnel at Buranda in Brisbane (one died, the other badly injured).

What will be the response of government, courts and the ABCC to the partner of this dead worker and the partner of his badly injured mate?

Ian Curr
December 2008

Black Balloons for 18 deaths on Construction Sites this year
Building workers collect black balloons to commemorate 18 deaths on construction sites this year.

Rights of Site Placard one day after death in South Brisbane Tunnel

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3 thoughts on “The Voice of the Workers

  1. Fellow Workers,

    The December 3rd, “West Australian” has an article about our anti-ABCC
    protest and those in other cities yesterday on page 6.
    I think, they got the number right..about a thousand of us there.
    According to Colin Barnett we’re not using 21st Century thinking by
    We should be more “professional”. I guess that means, we should should
    be like workers who think it “unprofessional” to be in union with their
    fellow workers in activities which increase our class power. Nope, we
    should remain competitive individuals like true professionals, waiting
    for the opportunity to step on our fellow workers in order to get a leg
    up in the “hire-arky”. We’ve also been chided by the spokesman for the
    Chamber of Commerce and urged by a spokeswoman for Julia Gillard to
    “act lawfully”.

    If memory serves, this was the same advice given by polytricksters to
    civil rights protesters in the USA back in the 50s and 60s when they
    broke the law by sitting in areas like restaurants and busses which
    were prohibted to them because of the colour of their skin. Eventually,
    the pollies came on board and now praise what they condemned as “law
    breaking” in the past.

    more here:

    yours for the abolition of the ABCC.
    Mike B
    Perth WA

  2. Leighton: Gillard’s honourable men

    On Monday, 27 October, a floor collapsed during construction of an office block in Canberra’s CBD. Such assaults were nothing new for the lead contractor, Leighton.

    Union officials pointed to the 70-hour weeks being demanded by the company. A lesser failure had happened two weeks earlier. No one should have been working under the floor. No one was killed on 27 October because the workers recognised the danger and had got out of the way. Their initiative put them at risk of violating the Building Industry Improvement Act.

    Leighton has led the charge to get the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) to strip workers of the capacity to protect themselves. In the week after the collapse, Leighton denied entry to the Construction Division’s National OHS official Martin Kingham because he did not have the right scrap of paper. By contrast, Leighton’s CEO Wal King is free to come and go despite judicial findings about him and his businesses.

    NSW Judge Murray Tobias, in 1993, declared King to be “not of good repute, having regard to character, honesty and integrity”, and that he still did not “truly accept even now that the practice of the false invoices was dishonest.” Notwithstanding this assessment, Tobias could not bring himself to conclude that King was “deliberately lying” but rather had been “extremely busy”. In the end, Tobias judged King and a fellow executive to be “generally speaking, honest, industrious and honourable … generally respected and held in high regard in the commercial and personal circles within which they move.” That assessment tells us more about the morality of those circles than it does about King’s probity. “So are they all, all honourable men.”

    King, nonetheless, felt “wounded” by the proceedings because, as he put it, he was “not in the habit of having to defend contracts publicly.” (Australian, 22-23 November 1997, p. 60.)

    King justified his companies’ use of false invoices to conceal price-fixing as “the culture … and custom that had been longstanding in the industry that had been handed on for years.” This tradition is not part of the culture that Commissioner Cole and the ABCC are determined to stamp out.

    [For Leighton’s collusive tendering see Royal Commission into Productivity, Report, NSW Parliamentary Papers, vol. XXII, Paper 273, pp. 99 and 130, and NSW Casino Control Authority, Report of Public Inquiry, 1994, pp. 31-35; for the corporate gloss, see Stephanie King, Leighton: fifty years, Technical Services, Sydney, 1999, pp. 96-97.]

    The death in October 2000 of Leighton worker, Robert Sergi, led to fines of $325,000 four years later. In convicting the corporation, judge Gebhardt accused it of “gross shoddiness” and condemned its failure to mention the incident in its annual report. (Age, 4 and 28 May 2004, p. 3; the case did not appear in the “Legal Affairs” section of the Australian Financial Review.)

    The law did not permit any executive to be sentenced even to week-end detention or community service. Instead, they were given rehabilitation to become good corporate citizens.

    Leighton was not excluded from government contracts, which was the fate of any firm prepared to deal with the Builders’ Labourers’ Federation after its de-recognition in 1986. Leighton, however, did have to pay $90,000 to the children of the killed worker.

    That sum was one four-hundredth (0.25%) of the $36m. package that King took home to his five-car garage beneath a tennis court.

    Notwithstanding these condemnations and performances, King and Leighton are permitted to dominate the construction sector.

    They call in the ABCC to combat the unions’ ingrained culture of safety. Gillard’s Construction Stasi is protecting Leighton. more than the Anti-Labour Party’s proposed OHS law will protect workers.

    Sergi’s widow said it all: “Workers should definitely be heard on site, because my husband would still be alive.” (Age, 28 May 1904, p. 3)

    (The historical and conceptual contexts for these activities and attitudes are available on the site, Framework of Flesh, builders’ labourers battle for health and safety.

    [Editor’s Note: Humphrey McQueen’s Website is at

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