Union leaders call for campaign to free Johnston
Trade union leaders on August 27 expressed their total disgust at the jailing of their colleague, former Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) Victorian branch leader Craig Johnston, by the Court of Appeal. The sentence showed just how far those opposing workers and their organisations would go in their attempt to discredit and destroy trade unions, they said.
Johnston was singled out and made a scapegoat because he is a high-profile unionist who has always been prepared to defend workers in need. The union leaders pointed out that the same courts repeatedly fail to jail employers who cause death and injuries to workers.
Eighteen unionists were charged over the Johnson Tiles-Skilled Engineering industrial dispute in 2001, but only Johnston has been jailed.
"If there was true justice, Johnson Tiles would also have faced charges for stripping the livelihoods from 29 workers by sacking them and replacing them with labour-hire workers.
"It was only unionists who campaigned to save the jobs of the Johnson Tiles workers who ended up facing charges", the union leaders said. Johnston pleaded guilty to charges of assault (verbal abuse), criminal damage and two counts of affray in the previous Country Court case.
When Melbourne County Court judge Joseph Gullaci sentenced him to a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for three years with a heavy fine and a compensation order, powerful anti-worker forces immediately organised a massive media campaign to have the decision overturned.
The trade union leaders said that Johnston's jailing by the Court of Appeals would also prove to be nothing but a Pyrrhic victory for the anti-trade union forces.
They called for his immediate release and emphasised that Craig Johnston was not alone in his fight against the powerful combination of government and employer organisations, and that his fellow trade unionists would go on campaigning for his release.
"We will be waiting there at the gates when he comes out," they said.
The following union leaders signed the statement in support of Craig Johnston: Martin Kingham, Victorian state secretary, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU); Tom Watson, Victorian state secretary, Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen's Association; Dean Mighell, Victorian state secretary, Electrical Trades Union; Dave Noonan, national assistant secretary, CFMEU; Steve Dargavel, Victorian assistant state secretary, AMWU; Bronwyn Halfpenny, Victorian state secretary, food and confectionary division, AMWU; Jim Reid, Victorian state secretary, printing division, AMWU; Michele O'Neil, Victorian state secretary, Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union; Kevin Bracken, Victorian state secretary, Maritime Union of Australia (MUA); Chris Cain, Western Australian state secretary, MUA; Ian Bray, WA assistant state secretary, MUA; Leo Skourdoumbis, Victorian CFMEU; Peter Marshall, Victorian state secretary, United Firefighters Union; John Parker, secretary, Gippsland Trades and Labour Council; John Kranz, secretary, Geelong and Region Trades and Labour Council; Tim Gooden, assistant secretary, GRTLC; John Morgan, national general-secretary, Shearers and Rural Workers Union; Kevin Reynolds, WA state secretary, CFMEU: Joe McDonald, WA assistant state secretary, CFMEU; Joan Doyle, Victorian state secretary, Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union communications division.
From Green Left Weekly, September 1, 2004.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.