Solidarity Concert: ‘VOICES FOR VICTORY’

A Benefit Concert for Workers
at the Queensland Children’s Hospital Site

On 2 October 2012 one of the longest and most important construction industry strikes in living memory ended in victory for the workers at the Queensland Children’s Hospital site (see over for details). Many of the workers and their families continue to suffer financial hardship as a result of their involvement in this dispute. The Trade Union Defence Committee is a community organisation formed to assist these and other workers in struggle. All proceeds from our benefit concert will go directly to the QCH workers in need.

Support the QCH Workers      Celebrate their Historic Victory!

Where:                 Serbian Hall, 243-7 Vulture St, South Brisbane (opposite South Bank Railway station)

Time:                     7.00 pm

When:                  Saturday 27 October, 

Admission:          $10.00 waged, $8.00 unwaged

BBQ and Bar from 5.30pm

Featuring a Fine Musical Line-up —

Combined Unions Choir

Mark Cryle

3 Miles from Texas

Phil Monsour

Jumping Fences

 “We are not going to build a children’s hospital as industrial slaves in a modern wealthy society…”—    Bob Carnegie, 22 September 2012

On 2 October 2012 construction workers at the Queensland Children’s Hospital (QCH) site returned to work victorious after a strike lasting almost eight weeks. The project’s main contractor, Abigroup, part of the massive Lend Lease empire, has signed an enterprise agreement with a subcontractors’ clause ensuring all workers performing similar roles are paid the same rate, whichever subcontractor employs them.

It’s a huge win.
Without guaranteed equal pay – a ‘rate for the job’ – subcontractors can undercut their competitors by tendering with wage rates below the industry standard. This practice was rife at the QCH site. Before the strike, the rate for similar jobs varied in some cases by up to $10 an hour. While some of the subcontractors did well out of this, the largest beneficiaries were Abigroup and Lend Lease.  Above the fray, like touts at a dog fight, this conglomerate stood to profit from a divided labour force – from workers competing as self-employed subbies, from workers looking for a start through small subcontractors or labour hire companies, each with its own conditions and rates of pay on offer.

Across the different classifications levels, trades and positions at the hospital site, however, the concept of common conditions, and the sense of common interests and common purpose, held strong. The issue came to a head after a gyprocking subcontractor went broke and Abigroup signed up a replacement on sub-standard rates. Work on the site stopped in protest on 6 August. No more work would be done, the workers declared, until a union agreement with a subcontractors’ clause was conceded.

Usually, disputes in construction are over in days, the bosses preferring to settle quickly rather than incur the costs and penalties of long delays. But despite losing $300,000 a day, Abigroup refused to negotiate. They sought and were granted court orders declaring the strike unlawful and directing the workers to resume work. When the workers remained defiant, the Federal Magistrates Court granted Abigroup’s application for injunctions preventing two unions and certain organisers and delegates from assisting the industrial action, banning them from even attending the protest gatherings outside the site. The workers then invited seafarer and former BLF organiser Bob Carnegie to help organise the daily protest. On 7 September, he, too, was banned from further involvement. While union delegates and organisers obeyed the court, Bob continued to attend the protest each morning.

Early in the dispute, some other sites in Brisbane stopped work for short periods in solidarity. Later, workers on Baulderstone sites across Australia downed tools. Baulderstone is another Lend Lease subsidiary. These actions added to the pressure on Abigroup to negotiate. But the key to the strike’s success and its most outstanding feature was the resolve and unity of the QCH workers themselves. As one worker put it bluntly when asked in week seven about the hardship of such a long struggle, ‘Well, that’s just the way it is.’ His was a common outlook. Having taken a stand together, these men and women were resolved to see it through to the end.

Abigroup underestimated this commitment. Despite weeks of company intimidation, court action against their leaders and financial deprivation, the workers couldn’t be broken. On 2 October they marched back in as one. Victorious! Their victory is in fact our victory, a blow for all of us against a system that wants to consign working people to a never-ending economic race to the bottom. The QCH workers showed an alternative is possible.

But they still need our support. Despite a stream of financial and in-kind assistance from around the country and overseas during the strike, many of the workers continue to face financial hardship as a result of almost eight weeks without wages. And since the dispute ended, Bob Carnegie has, on the instigation of Abigroup, been charged with contempt of court for his leadership role. So a battle has been won but the struggle goes on. Show your support and join in the victory celebrations at the ‘Voices for Victory’ benefit concert on 27 October.

Support the QCH Workers      Celebrate their Historic Victory!

Combined Unions Choir

The Combined Unions Choir raises awareness of the struggles and achievements of working people through music.

Mark Cryle and the Redeemers

“Mark Cryle is one of Australia’s finest storytellers” Country Update

3 Miles from Texas

I went for my first job interview at the local bank. The interview panel asked me what I thought was the most important quality for a banker. “Honesty…” I replied. Once the laughter had died down they asked if I’d be interested in appearing as the comic relief — Lead singer, 3 miles from Texas

Phil Monsour

Phil Monsour is an “Australian troubadour who sings songs of hope, humanity, invasion and occupations.”

Jumping Fences

Jumping Fences is an enduring musical partnership between Sue Monk and Lachlan Hurse. Jumping Fences plays inspiring songs for working people.

Defend the Right to Organise!

Trade Union Defence Committee wishes to thank these artists for their generous support in giving their creative talents and energy to this important struggle.

Contact: Ian Curr iancurr@bigpond.com mob +61 0407 687 016

Authorised by Trade Union Defence Committee PO Box 5093 West End 4101

2 thoughts on “Solidarity Concert: ‘VOICES FOR VICTORY’

  1. Defend the Right to Organise: motions in support of Bob Carnegie says:


    Petition is at http://bobcarnegiedefence.wordpress.com/

    I note that the MUA has put the petition on its own website along with a news item in support of QCH workers.

    Here is the wording of that MUA motion moved this week.

    “..This joint October monthly meeting of Maritime Union of Australia members from the Newcastle Branch, Sydney Branch and Southern NSW Branch resolve to congratulate Bob Carnegie for his ongoing support of the building workers in the Queensland Childrens Hospital Dispute.

    We condemn the 54 charges of criminal contempt that have been laid against Bob Carnegie which represent a spiteful attempt to intimidate every community activist who may in future wish to assist workers in obtaining justice.

    We stand fully behind those who stand up for workers rights and prepared to assist in the defence of these charges where need be.”


    Moved Sean Ambrose (MUA delegate, Port Botany)
    Seconded Warren Smith (MUA Assistant National Secretary)

    CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY

    ***

    Following is the motion in support of Bob that was passed at the University of NSW NTEU branch last week.

    Motion in support of union activist Bob Carnegie

    Union activist Bob Carnegie was charged on 17 October in Brisbane with 54 counts of contempt, because of his role as community protest organiser at the Queensland Children’s Hospital site.

    This is the workplace where more than 600 construction workers recently won a big victory against the company Abigroup after nine weeks on strike.

    Bob is charged with disobeying court injunctions brought by Abigroup that forbade him from taking part in the community protest. Bob stepped into the role of protest organiser after the officials of the unions concerned, the CFMEU and BLF, were themselves excluded by the courts.

    The charges against Bob bring with them the possibility of up to $400,000 in fines and a gaol sentence. The case has wider ramifications. If Abigroup gets away with this, unions around the country, and community groups more generally, will face similar intimidating threats. As the old union slogan goes, “An injury to one is an injury to all”.

    The following motion was passed at the October 24 Branch Committee meeting:

    NTEU UNSW Branch:

    condemns Abigroup for mounting a serious legal attack on community activist Bob Carnegie in relation to his role in the recent 9-week dispute at the Queensland Children’s Hospital offers its support to Bob Carnegie supports the raising of funds for the QCH workers’ relief fund to help pay for the backlog of bills accumulated during the QCH dispute calls on the Gillard Government to repeal the clauses in the Fair Work legislation that allow employers to take out injunctions against trade union officials and community activists assisting workers during industrial disputes.

    Thanks to those union members that have supported the QCH building workers in their struggle and their efforts to support Bob Carnegie against 54 charges of criminal contempt.

    The right to strike has been illegal throughout Australia’s grim industrial history – it is up to us to defend the right to organise by challenging these unjust laws.

    in solidarity
    Ian Curr
    4 November 2012

  2. Campaign to Defend Bob Carnegie says:

    The online petition is now online at http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/abigroup-drop-the-charges-against-bob-carnegie# . Please send it around as widely as you can with links to it etc.

    And here is a blogsite with petition, the motion, the letter, the background information, which we can add to as things develop http://bobcarnegiedefence.wordpress.com/.

    Please check it out.

    On that point, Bob was in court yesterday. (25 Oct 12) Abigroup, the plaintiff, are pressing for 54 charges of contempt. The state government will seek leave to intervene at the time of punishment should that time come about. Yesterday was mostly about programming, and the case is set down to be heard over 3 days in February.

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