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.
QCH community protest supporter
Alliance for Workers’ Liberty