Click on the recording of Julia Gillard’s speech to the ACTU congress and reply by ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence and while it is playing read the explanation below.
Earlier at the ACTU congress Ark Tribe, a rigger from South Australia, received a standing ovation.
What Ark had done was write a petition on a toilet hand towel to get better conditions on his construction worksite at Flinders University. He got his mates to sign the petition and asked management to correct the bad safety conditions on site.
The Australian Building and Construction commission were brought in by the boss and demanded that Ark reveal the people who were at the meeting where they got the petition together.
As a result at 9:30 am on Tuesday 9 June, Ark will be in court charged with not attending an interrogation with the Australian Building and Construction Commission. He faces up to six months in jail. The South Australian State Secretary for the CFMEU, will be standing in court alongside Ark.
The ABCC has not prosecuted the building contractor, Lend Lease, for health & safety breaches on the site. Nor has the ABCC breached the director of the company that allowed two workers on a swinging gantry on the Gold Coast to plunge to their deaths last year. See The Voice of the Workers. After a long wait the director of that company is to go on trial but not with any help from the ABCC. Why? The ABCC is not concerned about health & safety. It is about preventing your rights on site. This situation has directly led to one death per week on building sites in Australia.
Gillard was unmoved by the appeal from the ACTU congress to change the legislation.
Workers BushTelegraph’s reply to Julia Gillard
Just before the 1983 election Ralph Willis, the future minister for emaployment & industrial relations in the Hawke Labot government told a mass meeting of the Australian Clerical Officers Association [ACOA] and other public sector unions at Festival hall that we could expect nothing from Labor if it won the election.
Willis was true to his word. Real wages and conditions fell. The government begrudingly gave social security to unemployed workers thrown on the scrapheap of economic rationalist policies of the Labor government. Unions went into decline. The ACOA went from 65% coverage in the Tax Office and Department of Social Security down to the present level below 20%. Many workers were made casual (non-ongoing) or, worse still, redundant. The Community & Public Sector Union [CPSU] stood by tryinfg only to get better redundancies. It refused to fight only interested in retaining the membership that it had rather than trying to organise in areas that were not organise.
By the time the Howard government came along we had suffered one major recession under capitalism. The Keating government told workers that they had to bear the pain of that recession in the national interest.
So the ALP had distanced itself from workers & their unions even before the 1983 federal election.
The communist-led metalworkers union begged for social democracy from the Hawke Labor government through a document titled Australia Reconstructed. The then leader of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union [AMWU], Laurie Carmichael, a communist, was one of the architects of the Prices and Incomes Accord between Labor government and unions. Prices went up, real wages fell. The-recession-we-had-to-have followed.
Now, in 2009 Julia Gillard, deputy prime minister in the Rudd labor government has refused to abolish the Australian Building & Construction Commission. Worse still neither Labor not ACTU has pushed to permit secondary boycott’s by unions to help out workers suffering under these new IR laws [ironically titled Fair Work Australia].
The ALP government is forcing the unions, that formed the Labor Party over 100 years ago, to break with them. Perhaps it is an orchestrated move by government. I don’t know. The unions are reluctant to break with the party that they see as their own.
Witness the plight of the national secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Engineering union [Construction Division], Dave Noonan, at the congress just after the slap in the face by Julia Gillard.
Dave stood stony faced before the assembled media.
Behind him stood some family members of workers who had died, made expendable in the pursuit of profits. The media asked if Noonan would break with the ALP. He hedged. Journos love a good story so they pursued him some more. One of the family members said that nothing could bring her family back but that she had come there that day to try to stop other workers from being killed.
So, in a sense, the members and their families have already broken with the ALP in government. There is unanimity in the CFMEU and other building unions to abolish the ABCC.
Julia Gillard was cold to the demands of the yellow T-shirted delgates & union observers on the floor of the congress. “Where is your yellow T-shirt, Julia?” one unionist yelled out. Gillard says that she is going to repeal the Howard legislation that set up the ABCC in 2010 and introduce her own version of it in the Fair Work Australia legislation.
Unions got rid of Howard. Recession comes. ALP reintroduces Howard’s legislation in a different form. Gillard broadens the tough anti-union legislation to cover all workers, not just the building workers. She has the unions in a vice already. We can suffer no illusions. This may be the last throw of the dice for the unions. Ironically older workers like myself may witness the disintegration of the unions that we have seen decline throughout our working lives.
Workers Unite, Stand up and Fight!