BY VANNESSA HEARMAN
MELBOURNE — Ten-thousand building workers marched from Trades Hall to the Melbourne Magistrates Court on February 6 in support of Martin Kingham, Victorian state secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), who appeared before the court on two charges of breaching the Royal Commission Act.
The charges were brought against Kingham for refusing to hand over to the building industry royal commission lists of names of shop stewards who took part in CFMEU training. Each charge carries a penalty of $1000 or six months in jail.
Outside the court, several Victorian and national trade union leaders addressed workers. ACTU secretary Greg Combet pledged the support of the entire union movement for the CFMEU in its fight to defend Kingham.
"When the federal government is in trouble, they go and declare war — war on Iraq, war on unions and war on workers' rights", said Kingham.
CFMEU national secretary John Maitland told the rally that all workers needed to support the Victorian leadership of the CFMEU, which has shown "much courage" in the past.
Like Kingham, Maitland drew parallels between the attack on workers' rights by the Howard government and its support for a war against Iraq. He asked the crowd if they supported the US actions against Iraq, which drew a resounding "No!" and asked: "Aren't the Iraqis workers too, just like us?"
Maitland drew the workers' attention to the February 14-16 national weekend of action against war and reminded them that the CFMEU nationally has called for members to participate in these actions.
Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) secretary Leigh Hubbard described the building industry royal commission as a "commission for the bosses". So far it has cost $65 million and "90% of the submissions have been from bosses". He also reiterated Maitland's call to participate in anti-war rallies.
Electrical Trades Union secretary and VTHC president Dean Mighell called on the workers to "declare war against John Howard and Daniel Grollo".
With the royal commission's findings due to be handed down on February 24, the VTHC has organised a combined delegates' meeting for February 27 at the Dallas Brooks Hall to discuss a plan of action, followed by a march to the Commonwealth Government Offices in Treasury Place.
The case against Kingham will be heard on April 29.
From Green Left Weekly, February 12, 2003.
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