Framework of Flesh
Builders’ Labourers Battle
for Health & Safety
by Humphrey McQueen
This book takes up a 1920s challenge from a militant labourer, Charlie Sullivan:
“few ever think of the great and humble army whose sweat and blood are mingled in the concrete and bricks as surely as if the walls were built over a framework of human flesh.”
McQueen uses labourers’ own words to retell their battles around scaffolding and shithouses, for the safe removal of asbestos, prompt and adequate compensation, and a decent burial.
The stories start in convict times and cover the six states and the ACT. The labourers’ struggle for health and safety is followed into their dismantling of the framework of fear erected by the Building and Construction Commission.
By tracking on-the-job experiences of demolishers, dog-men, hod-carriers and navvies, McQueen confirms the conviction of an early official of the BLF, Ben Mulvogue:
A union constitutes a school for the working class, wherein they learn self-reliance, learn their rights, privileges, opportunities, as well as their possibilities. Every new demand for better physical protection of the workers ensures a great ideal development for a future generation.
In homage to this hope for the world, Framework of Flesh contributes to builders’ labourers’ struggle for socialism.
‘The genius of Humphrey McQueen has brought to life the tremendous and sometimes fatal efforts made by building labourers in constructing the built environment of Australia. I hope that Framework of Flesh is read by every building worker and by all those with an interest in occupational health and safety, and in construction labour worldwide.’ – Professor Linda Clarke, author of Building Capitalism (1993), Presidium Member, European Institute of Construction Labour Research.