Qld Childrens Hospital Community Protest: QCH workers need your support

QCH is a test case
650 workers at the Queensland Children’s Hospital site in South Brisbane have been in dispute and on a community protest since 6 August.

Construction disputes do not usually go on this long. The bosses face heavy financial penalties. The workers, in an insecure industry, lack savings to cover long periods without wages. Usually disputes are settled, one way or another, in a few days.

Abigroup, the main contractor at QCH, is losing $300,000 a day; but has decided to make this a test case.

The workers are fighting for a principle
The workers want a union Enterprise Bargaining Agreement with a clause ensuring all employees of subcontractors get the rate for the job.

The workers want an industry where workers get the respect due to the people who build the structures all the rest of us live in and work in. They want an industry where workers are paid the rate for the job and get decent conditions, and where valuable projects like the QCH are completed on time, to a goodstandard, and safely.

Abigroup wants an industry where workers scramble to compete with each other for insecure, ill-organised work at whatever rate they can get.

Abigroup uses unfair law
Abigroup is owned by the giant Lend Lease corporation, which reported $500 million profits for the year to 30 June 2012. Its chief executive Steve McCann was paid $7.33 million for the 2012 financial year, a 66% pay rise. Lend Lease has recently had to sideline four top Abigroup executives for financial misreporting.

Lend Lease could afford to settle the dispute just by lopping a bit off Steve McCann’s pay.

Instead it has pushed Fair Work Australia to order the workers back to work and ban all strikes at the site. It has got court orders to ban union officials from the site, and also to ban community protest organiser Bob Carnegie, not a union official. Bob is defying the ban. Now court orders are threatened against other workers.

Workers are not slaves or serfs
Law which denies the right to withdraw labour, or the right to show solidarity with other workers, or the right to peaceful protest, is unjust law.

Even other capitalist states would recognise the workers’ rights. In France the constitution establishes the right to strike as an individual right for every worker. France has, by most measures, the world’s highest labour productivity.

It takes defiance to replace unjust laws by just laws.

QCH workers need support
The QCH workers have had support from workers and labour activists across Australia and across the world – England, Turkey, Iran, France. On 24 Septembers workers and students in London are protesting at the Lend Lease office there to show solidarity.

Now the QCH workers need more than messages. They need action by other workers who, by taking action, can put pressure on Lend Lease and on the employing class.

The QCH workers’ fight is the fight of every worker facing contracting-out, unfair wages, or insecure conditions – which means, every worker.

What to do?
Join the community protest at the Graham Street entrance to the site any weekday morning from 5.30.

Please send donations in the form Coles and Woolworths $50 gift cards which are redeemable for groceries or fuel. Please post to PO Box 738, Stones Corner 4120. Invite workers from the community protest to visit your workplace or union meeting to explain the dispute and discuss what you can do.

Contact ishmaeI1819@gmail.com

Martin Thomas
QCH community protest supporter
Alliance for Workers’ Liberty


QCH Dispute flyer from Workers Liberty

4 thoughts on “Qld Childrens Hospital Community Protest: QCH workers need your support

  1. Transfer to State Award? says:

    Labor industrial relations regime under siege in Queensland
    From: The Australian
    September 24, 2012 12:00AM

    THE Gillard government’s attempts to build a national workplace system are in jeopardy after Queensland threatened to take the unprecedented step of withdrawing more than 300,000 small businesses employees from the federal arena and re-employ them under state awards.

    Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie, furious at attempts by Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten to try to force state governments to pay contractors the same as their own public servants, said the state was “seriously considering” applying to get back some of the industrial relations powers referred to the commonwealth under Anna Bligh…http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/industrial-relations/labor-industrial-relations-regime-under-siege-in-queensland/story-fn59noo3-1226479886375

  2. QCH workers win EBA says:

    Money speaks for money, the devil for his own
    Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone
    What a comfort to the widow, a light to the child
    There is power in a union

    — ‘Power in the Union’ by Bill Bragg

    The Qld Children’s Hospital (QCH) dispute arose because the main contractor, Abigroup [a subsidiary of Lend Lease], was using labour hire firm(s) to employ subcontractors thus divorcing themselves from legal and industrial responsibility for the project. ‘Subbies’ were forced to make bids to undercut each other. Workers wages were lost and large amounts of money was creamed off the top by labour hire firm(s) in this bidding war (one subbie, a plasterer, went broke in the process).

    There was a lot of difficulty faced by the workers and their families and bills were mounting. Many of the families have special needs. Injunctions had been served against the unions (CFMEU & CEPU) and workers’ reps under FairWork Australia legislation prohibiting organisers and officials from going near the QCH site.

    Federal Labor Government Attack on Right to Strike
    On Sept 5 2012 Fair Work Australia gave the following order:

    Each of the Unions must forthwith:
    (a) take all reasonable steps to advise its officers, delegates and its employees that any direction, advice or authorisation to its members to engage in
    industrial action on the QCH Project site is withdrawn and such industrial action must cease or not occur;
    (b) issue and distribute (including by posting and maintaining on the homepage of the Union and Union Branch websites) to all its employees a circular
    (i) sets out the terms of this Order

    The workers were prevented from forming a strike committee. There are other matters that are still the subject of legal concern. For more information, see article “Victory at QCH” by Martin Thomas at Workers Liberty.

    The workers and their union, CFMEU construction division, have now won an EBA with the contractor, Abigroup, which means the workers should return to work today (Tues 2 Oct) on equal wages.

    The chief contractor for the government job appears to have colluded with labour hire firm(s) to interfere with fair trade (of the subcontractors) on the site. Lend Lease appears to have engaged in unconscionable conduct because its subsidiary, Abigroup:

    1) imposed conditions on the the subbies that were not reasonably necessary to protect the legitimate interests of Abigroup;
    2) exerted undue influence, pressure or unfair tactics;
    3) reduced the price, or other circumstances, under which the ‘subbie’ (eg the plasterer) would be able to sell services;
    4) abused its right to unfairly and unilaterally change contract terms;
    5) demonstrated unwillingness to negotiate (refused to enter into an EBA); and
    6) did not act in good faith in dealing with ‘subbies’.

    Given these circumstances Lend Lease, as owner of Abigroup, would appear to have a case to answer from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for unfair trade. But who is going to make the complaint, the Qld government?

    Lend Lease is a transnational corporation that bought out AbiGroup last year. It was involved in large building projects like the Olympic Games site in London. It has had a free hand in buying up and exploiting smaller contractors, yet only the union stands up to them. It is time the community did so as well, especially when it is our children who will be housed and looked after in the this hospital.

    Ian Curr
    3 Oct 2012

  3. Martin Thomas says:

    On Tuesday 2 October (2012) the workers at the Queensland Children’s Hospital site in Brisbane returned to work victorious after being stopping work on a community protest since 6 August.

    Thanks to all comrades who sent messages of support or otherwise assisted.

    The main contractor, Abigroup, has conceded the workers’ two central demands. The existing non-union enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) will be cancelled and replaced by a union EBA. And the new EBA will contain a subcontractors’ clause ensuring the rate for the job for every worker on the site whatever subcontractor employs them.

    The outstanding problem from the workers’ point of view is that Abigroup has reserved its right to take legal action for damages against the union, against the officials, and against community protest leader Bob Carnegie.

    Several things made a difference in this dispute… Read More @ http://www.workersliberty.org/qch

    [Thanks to Martin Thomas]

    Bob Carnegie had this to say about the dispute:


  4. Drop the charges against community activist, Bob Carnegie says:

    On Monday 11 February Bob Carnegie will be appearing in the Federal Magistrates Court in Brisbane on 54 charges of criminal contempt arising from his role as community leader of the 9-week strike at the Queensland Children’s Hospital construction site in August-October last year.

    Construction company AbiGroup, part of the giant Lend Lease group, has brought these charges against Bob in a blatant attempt to victimise anyone lending support to trade unions in disputes with employers. These charges are a clear threat to any community activist.


    Bob’s case is scheduled for 9.30am so people are urged to be outside the Magistrates Court by 8.30am sharp to hear Bob and others (details TBA) speak about the charges he faces and the significance of his case to all those who fight for social justice.


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