BY CHRIS LATHAM
PERTH — Despite driving rain, 1200 construction workers protested on July 24 against the return to Western Australia of the royal commission into the construction industry.
Communication, Electrical and Plumbing Union organiser Les McLaughlan told the rally that the royal commission was a "political attack on non-compliant unionism" using methods similar to McCarthyism in the United States. He added that the commission was sending the message that unions were not allowed to improve wages and conditions. It is an attempt to remove the rights of unions to organise.
Dave Robinson, assistant secretary of Unions WA, called for solidarity with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. He pointed out that the objective of the commission was to neutralise the CFMEU because of the role it plays in setting standards for other unions. The commission was not interested in addressing the rorts and intimidation by employers, and unsafe working conditions in the building industry, Robinson said.
CFMEU state secretary Kevin Reynolds informed the assembled workers of the intimidatory tactics used by the police and the royal commission. CFMEU officials have had their homes searched by heavily armed police and their phones have been tapped.
Reynolds reported that the CFMEU nationally has been discussing its attitude to the negotiations for new enterprise agreements in the building industry. Negotiations are due to begin in September. The key focus of the campaign will be winning a 36-hour week, similar to that won by the Victorian branch in 2000, with a 15% pay rise over three years.
Reynolds urged CFMEU members to be ready for industrial action.
From Green Left Weekly, July 31, 2002.
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