Construction Unions Rally – July 4 2012 Melbourne, Australia

9 07 2012


July 5, the Fin Review covered the rally and cited MUA Victorian Secretary Kevin Bracken’s call for an end to importation of international labour racist. In fact Mr Bracken was pushing for due process of all persons who wish to obtain work in Australia and an end to the 457 visa.

In fact Mr Bracken was calling for an adherence to the existing migration process that protects international workers from abuse by giving them citizenship of this country. He was also speaking for reinforcing skills in this country and said that those skills sould cease to exist in Australia if they were not taught to Australian citizens.

The 457 visa exists exists for companies wishing to extract maximum profit by cutting corners on migration in so called skill shortage areas. However international workers employed on 457 visas have often been subject to wages and conditions that fall far short of Australian conditions and are in breach of Australia’s Fairwork industrial relations law yet the Federal govt has been loathe to regulate the 457 system.

The May 25 announcement of an agreement that would allow Hancock Prospecting to import 1715 457 visa workers to their Roy Hill mine, Federal Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has embarrassed the Federal government into some show of revision.

BOB BIRRELL, MIGRATION EXPERT, MONASH UNIVERSITY: Over the past few years, the Government has systemically rejected any proposals this that there should be labour market testing for 457 visas sponsored by Australian employers, and suddenly on Friday, the Prime Minister says that she now feels that Australian workers should be given an opportunity to apply for work that 457 visa holders intended to do. So if this was the case, it would be a massive change and administrative revolution in the 457 visa regime.

Not embarrassed enough though, to call a halt to the expansion of agreements like Roy Hill with other companies chomping at the bit to get a hold of those low paid workers.

The 7:30 report touched on the issue in May this year.

730 Report on Rhinehart's Roy Hill Mine migration agreement
(29/05/2012 copyright ABC)

KRUNO KUKOC, SENIOR IMMIGRATION OFFICIAL To date we have had four applications for EMA, we have four applications, one fully considered, assessed and before the Minister, three with us at the moment.

STEVE KNOTT, AUST. MINES AND METAL ASSOC.: The number of projects that meet that criteria of $2 billion or 1,500 employees is very small – there’s only about 10 to 13 projects in that category. So yes, there are other enterprise migration agreement programs being considered.

GREG HOY: It is clear from comments made publicly over the past week that it won’t be long before further enterprise migration agreements are announced. The multinational Chevron corporation will today neither confirm nor deny rumours that it’s Wheatstone and Gorgon gas projects off WA are the next in line for such agreements, followed by the Indian GVK and Adani coal projects in Queensland. Unions are angry at the lack of transparency.

And Gina’s position?

GINA RINEHART (from corporate video): Whilst continuing to limit sufficient guest workers, we are not only losing or delaying projects, but creating problems for the future by putting ourselves in an unnecessarily high cost base structure, from which we will be forced to struggle to compete internationally for decades ahead. Both unions and migration experts have long called for greater market testing of availability of Australian workers, including for the closely related 457 visas that have, or will, bring in tens of thousands more skilled workers than will now arrive under enterprise migration agreements.

Gina Rhinehart could not be more blatant in her stated wish to undercut Australian wages and conditions but foisting lesser conditions on 457 workers who do not have rights the same as Australian citizens.

It seems pretty clear too, that such agreements would intentionally undercut Australian Enterprise Agreements and are designed to rid the space of union representation.

Finally the Fin Review should be noted as shark infested media and should note: it is a racist migration scheme in which inherent under-privilege is linked with country of origin.


What is The Union Show?

7 12 2010

The Union Show broadcast on community TV C31 in Melbourne Australia from 2005 to 2009 and is a rich source of information on unions and issues affecting unions in this country. Whilst the program is no longer produced for television, the producers, United Productions maintain both a Union Show blog and the UnitedPro2010 YouTube channel as a means of disseminating union information that would otherwise be lost in time and in the morass of anti-union misinformation that is distributed by mainstream media.

An extensive archive of Union Show episodes is available for viewing at Current union information can be sourced at and at the UnitedPro2010 YouTube channel. There are many other web sources for union information that deal mainly in the written word. One of those sites and perhaps the venerable example is where you will find links to many other like-minded information outlets.

Rigger’s industrial laws fight back in court

14 09 2010

By Candice Marcus

Updated Mon Sep 13, 2010 2:33pm AEST

Ark Tribe

Rigger Ark Tribe arrives for another court appearance (ABC News: Patrick Rocca)

A lawyer for a construction worker charged under federal industrial laws has told Adelaide Magistrates Court the prosecution case is seriously flawed.

Rigger Ark Tribe is accused of failing to attend at the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) to answer questions about a stopwork meeting which was held over safety concerns at an Adelaide building site.

It is the first such case prosecuted.

Tribe’s lawyer Michael Abbott QC told the court that only the commissioner was empowered to form a suspicion that a worker had contravened the laws.

“It always has to be the ABC Commissioner investigating unless he delegates that function, which he never did,” he told the hearing.

“The function of the ABC Commissioner must be performed by him, and him alone, unless he delegates it and he would still have to publish a copy of the instructions of delegation under the legislation.

“The inspectors acted illegally and unlawfully.”

Mr Abbott said much could be read into the fact that Commissioner John Lloyd was not called to give evidence for the prosecution case, when it should have been his investigation.

“We say the silence of the ABC Commissioner is telling,” he said.

Hundreds of union members again rallied outside the hearing to support Tribe.

The magistrate will give a verdict in November and unionists have vowed to take nationwide action if Tribe is jailed.

Collective bargaining – it’s good for all of us

17 08 2010

How do nurses achieve better nurse-patient ratios to lift the standard of patient care? How do workers in dangerous industries win tougher safety standards? How do teachers win smaller class sizes to boost students’ ability to learn?
The answer is collective bargaining, and these benefits go hand in hand with better pay, better conditions and the ability to have your say at work — in all industries.

CFMEU C&G National Secretary’s Message – The Election

13 08 2010

Tony Abbott is the most hard line right wing politician who has ever sought the support of the Australian people.

Abbott was a minister in the John Howard led Government who sat at the table as they forced WorkChoices on Australians without telling the public about the policy before the 2004 elections.

Now he is trying to con us that he has changed.

He now says he opposed WorkChoices in cabinet. Well he never said so publicly at the time. It was only after WorkChoices cost the Liberals the last election that he shared that story with the voters.

He now says WorkChoices is “dead, buried and cremated.” But in his recent book, ‘Battlelines’ he said “WorkChoices was good for workers”.

He also admitted on national television that he lies to the public when it suits him.

So what do we know for sure about Tony Abbott?

Construction workers know that it was Abbott who set up the Cole Royal Commission and established the ABCC.

We know he is proud of putting in place the law which sees Ark Tribe facing six months in prison for standing up for safety by refusing to dob in his mates.

We know that he supports bringing back compulsory individual contracts.

We know that he wants to get rid of unfair dismissal laws for millions of Australians.

We know that he would abolish the stimulus package which helped keep the construction industry afloat in a serious world economic downturn.

I think we can probably believe him on those bits of policy, if nothing else.

Of course the union has been critical of Labor for its delay in getting rid of the ABCC, and for using the language of the Liberal Party in talking about a “tough cop on the beat.”

And we have criticised the bill that Labor has put in to the Senate which would abolish the ABCC because it continues unequal treatment of construction workers – it does not go far enough.

The union will continue to fight for one law for all and we will not stop until this objective is achieved.

A Labor government gives us an opportunity to continue to make progress – while under Tony Abbott the current laws would be retained and are likely to be extended.

Under Kevin Rudd, Labor often looked like a pale shadow of itself. Many people had stopped listening to Rudd.  Julia Gillard has an opportunity to win back the true believers, including many construction workers.

Labor has made some welcome announcements about protecting workers entitlements.

Abbott would not implement these improvements if elected.

He has also pledged to scrap the resources rent tax which would finally see the mining billionaires pay a fairer share of tax on the massive profits that they receive from mineral resources; resources which are owned by all Australians.

Abbott’s mad policy would stop the long overdue plan to increase superannuation to 12%, a plan announced by Labor.

Abbott supports greedy billionaires trousering this money rather than millions of hard working Australians getting a decent retirement income.

Many of our members will vote for the Greens or for independents. If so, they should be careful that their preferences do not go to help elect an Abbott government.

However critical we are of Labor on particular issues, the fact is that at this time under our political system, either Tony Abbott or Julia Gillard will be the next Prime Minister of this country.

The union will always call it as we see it – regardless of which political party is in power.

We’ve had plenty of arguments with Julia Gillard.

If she is elected, we will continue to agree on some things and not others.

But if Abbott wins, Australian workers lose. We know this bloke and we know what he stands for.

Workers and their unions would need to prepare for a savage attack on hard won rights. Recent history tells us that when these rights are stolen by right wing Governments and employers, the fight to regain them is long and hard.

If you support rights at work and a fairer society, there is really only one answer to the question we all face on August 21 – that is to reject Abbott and the Liberals and elect Gillard and Labor.

No Jobs on a Dead Planet

19 07 2010

In the lead up to the Federal Election neither of the major parties has tabled an adequate response to climate change.

This is a time for bold action as we enter an emergency which some are likening to a total war scenario, both in terms of the effects upon our nation and the scale of the responses required.  Due to the level of planning and regulation, and the massive engagement demanded of the Australian people and our institutions, the context of a war economy is being discussed by growing numbers of people.  With approximately two thirds of the Arctic gone, and significant rapid losses in depth at the Antarctic as well, this discussion is gaining force.

Where major political parties fail to introduce adequate measures to reduce carbon consumption, we the Australian people must participate in the new thinking towards a new zero carbon economy.  Over the next ten years we must insure an equitable Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS),

The opposing argument, which postulates that eco-systemic change must not cause the economic crisis to worsen, appears to be made up primarily of economic vested interests; their position is developing into “Jobs versus the Environment”.

All the facts lean towards a drop in employment if the status quo is maintained.  Around the world renewable energy is proving to be a viable way to secure long term jobs.  Investment in renewable energy will provide all parties across the CCS divide with an opportunity to unite around an agreed direction.

A CFMEU/Gippsland Trade and Labour Council combined initiative

In response to the threat of job loss in the power industry which is a mainstay of regional employment in the LaTrobe Valley, the Earthworker Social Enterprise Association’s (ESEA) is an initiative of the CFMEU and the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council.

Using the Everlast factory in Dandenong as a model, the Earthworker Social Enterprise Association’s (ESEA) first factory, “Eureka’s Future,” will need 12 staff members to manufacture the tank alone.  However in the early days of the Earthworker Project, most jobs will be created in the installation.  For each solar hot water system manufactured, one day of work for an installer would be required, plus some additional trade time for plumbing and electrical work (depending upon the system installed and the skills of the installer).  Eleven installers doing an installation every week day would be the minimum required to install 2400 systems.  Given the need to do site visits to quote on jobs and the variability of time required to do different installation, more than 20 installers would likely be needed to cover this level of installations.  There will also be additional staff required in sales and marketing, and over time, there will be jobs created in repairs and maintenance.

Establishing a small manufacturing facility and generating more local interest in installing solar hot water systems will therefore result in around 30 – 40 new jobs.  Making this initiative a success will then provide the enterprise with the experience to expand into a diverse range of sustainability manufacturing and installation initiatives, resulting in more job creation.

Gippsland Trades and Labour Council is continuing to push ahead to establish Eureka’s Future in the Latrobe Valley, now that the initial work done by CFMEU Mining and Energy in commissioning the Business Plan is complete.

The unit we will produce is the Everlast tank, solar collectors and associated components, a unit which is already successful in the marketplace.

The plan is to start with, but not be limited to:

  • Manufacturing Jobs linked to environmental sustainability.
  • Providing jobs which never leave our shores because they are owned by union-supported Social Enterprises, affiliated to the ESEA.
  • Manufacture of Solar Hot Water Units – 26% of the household bill.
  • Organising for deferred payment either through a person’s Energy Bill, their EBA or Superannuation.
  • Ultimately diversifying into manufacture of the full range of green technologies (see below).
  • While the majority of profit will advance the Social Enterprises, we will seek to always insure that some profits are used towards the elimination of youth homelessness and the waiting list for our elderly in hospital, dental, optical, and for other social justice responsibilities. We intend to take our communities with us.

The  cooperative aims to address both the pending environmental overload and the economic issues arising from it, based on development and implementation of new technologies for energy production. It provides a regional context, at the heart of the power generation economy in the LaTrobe Valley, for staged redeployment of a workforce.

You can view details of the development at

A Viable Energy Production

The argument often made is that renewable energy cannot replace the “baseload” nature of our coal generators.  Two reasons are often given for this:

The first is that you could never harvest the amount of energy stored in fossil fuels such as coal which is quite energy dense from the wind/sun and biomass.

This is in error because we actually only need to replace the “delivered energy” service, not the energy contained in the raw coal.  According to the Federal Government’s Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator in June 2009, of the 2050PJ delivered to power stations by coal, only 388 PJ is used by industry, or less than 20%.  It is not 2050PJ we need to replace, but 388PJ.

The second reason cited against the viability of renewables is that the wind doesn’t blow all the time and the sun doesn’t shine all the time.

However Australia is a vast country and our electricity system spans the eastern seaboard, with varied meteorological conditions.  Solar Thermal Plants, 97,000MW of which is now planned for Government land in California, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado have 17 hours of storage and run annual capacity factors of 75% very similar to Latrobe Valley 85-90% capacity factors.  Lowest sun periods in Queensland Jan/Feb correlating with the monsoon offset lowest solar incidence in the southern latitudes June/July at excellent solar sites such as Mildura.  Because Solar thermal with storage works the same as a hydro dam, in that the heat energy is stored in giant molten salt tanks (Two small 50MW plants in Spain store 1,045MWe and dispatch power each night for 7.5 hours after sun down.  Solar Thermal stations are proposed worldwide with 50MW, 250MW and 400MW turbines. They are able to provide “firming” power like a gas peaker or hydro dam, to match the supply curve of more variable wind power.

Plant Closures

We are faced with the possible phased closure of Morwell, Hazelwood and Yallourn within a very few years.  Closure of these three older plants could happen in any number of ways and will more than likely happen as a result of the combination of overseas corporations closing them down, as part of a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), and/or massive pressure from populations as a result of catastrophic climate change.

CCS is something that our union will obviously pursue because in the long run, if it works as planned, it will provide valuable time and space for Australia to put the 50, 100 year and beyond-solutions we will require to maintain a relatively civilised standard of living. Employers on the other hand see things in terms of costs and return for the shareholders.  With plant closures imminent, if we are limited to negotiation with Governments and corporations with protest as our fall back, our union’s ability to defend our membership and their families into the future is under threat.  In the shorter term however, with our members as the renewable energy provider , we can begin building the alternative jobs and environment pathways straight away. Therefore our union is taking the reins and determining our own direction.

We are moving beyond protest! Wont you join us in this, our country’s work!

Ark’s Case Adjourned Until 10am Friday 18th June

17 06 2010

Ark’s lawyers argued that the ABCC had not correctly begun the prosecution – because the person authorising the prosecution did not have the power to do so. As a result they said the charges should be thrown out. Lawyers for the Commonwealth DPP contested the argument and the magistrate moved for an adjournment.

Ark Tribe Court Case, Adelaide, June 15

1500 people turned up this morning on June 15 in Adelaide, in support of Ark Tribe’s court appearance.

Proceedings began with a minute’s silence to commemorate work mates killed on site before several speakers took to the stage to voice their protest over the ABCC and their treatment of Tribe.

Two of the loudest cheers came for Paddy Hill (Birmingham 6) and Gerry Conlan (Guildford 4). Both had been unjustly imprisoned for several years in the UK before being exonerated. They came all the way from Scotland and Ireland to support Ark and voice their disgust at a possible similar injustice.

Ark, charged with allegedly failing to attend an ABCC interrogation, was thankful for the support as he took to the podium. He took time to thank his mum Anne and son Jake, who were in attendance, while also saying a big thank you to the CFMEU.

As a show of solidarity, several members and supporters formed a guard of honour by holding union flags aloft, as Ark and his lawyer Steven Dolphin, made their way to the Adelaide Magistrates court.

Many members yelled, clapped and cheered their support as Ark walked past, some offering handshakes and pats on the back as encouragement.

A harmonica player standing outside court fittingly played ‘Waltzing Matilda’ as Ark entered the building to more cheers of encouragement.

Dave Noonan, CFMEU C&G Division National Secretary and the Rights on Site Team