Building workers: 'We saved this city'

Issue 

BY NICK EVERETT

SYDNEY — Environmental activists rallied outside the Sydney hearings of the pro-boss royal commission into the building industry on July 5, highlighting the record of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's struggles in defence of Sydney's environment and its heritage buildings.

The 60-strong rally reflected on some of the most significant environmental campaigns led and supported by building unions during the last three decades.

Jack Mundy, a former NSW branch secretary of the Builders Labourers Federation, explained how the "extra-parliamentary action of building workers" had saved Centennial Park, the Rocks and numerous Sydney heritage buildings. It was as a result of sustained pressure from the union's "Green Bans" campaign, said Mundy, that heritage legislation was introduced into the NSW parliament in the late 1970s.

"Action of ordinary people brought about change", said Mundy. He went on to condemn the royal commission, which many believe was set up to attack the CFMEU. "We built this city, we saved this city", he said.

National Trust executive director Elsa Atkin also commended the record of the CFMEU in defending heritage sites.

NSW CFMEU branch secretary Andrew Ferguson pointed out that the commission had ignored the deaths on building sites that resulted from poor safety conditions. Dean McGoldrick, a 17-year-old, died as a result of "no scaffolding, no harness and no supervision", explained Ferguson. "The boss didn't pay [the fine of $20,000].

"One worker is killed every week because of the bosses' mistakes. We make mistakes, but they don't cost lives. We will survive because we have a powerful and committed rank and file."

Unlike the West Australian and Victorian branches of the CFMEU, the NSW branch has cooperated with the royal commission by allowing the commission to question its officials in the witness box.

From Green Left Weekly, July 10, 2002.
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