The CFMEU ACT Rank and File Action Group met on March 14 to discuss the state of the ACT branch of the union. Reports were presented about the CFMEU federal office investigation of the branch, the group's campaign for a clean and strong union that is accountable to its members and the state of industrial organising in the ACT.
The meeting was advertised to members through posters at major construction sites across the ACT. This followed two articles in the Canberra Times last year alleging that directors of the two "tradies" clubs in the ACT, who are also CFMEU branch officials, voted to pay themselves $200,000 each for investment advice if some spinoff enterprises from the clubs became profitable.
A meeting of the rank-and-file group last December passed a motion calling on the ACT branch officials to cooperate with the CFMEU federal office inquiry into the branch, and to convene a meeting of branch members. The March 14 meeting passed a motion to seek legal advice regarding the union's rules about how to take action against the ACT branch officials.
The meeting also heard that a March 1 meeting of the CFMEU federal executive had passed a motion condemning the ACT branch officials for aggrandising themselves and dismissed ACT branch secretary George Wason from a directorship with the C+ BUS construction industry superannuation board. He was replaced by CFMEU federal construction division secretary David Noonan. The position's $150,000 remuneration, which was to have been paid into ACT branch funds, has yet to be verified.
The rank-and-file group members discussed how conditions are deteriorating on construction sites across the ACT, despite the building boom. Workplace delegates are being appointed, sometimes by the boss, rather than elected, and the union has allowed this to occur.
The CFMEU now has only about 1200 members. Some major ACT construction sites have only 25% CFMEU coverage of eligible workers, compared to the very good coverage of the electrical and plumbers unions on sites.
Members discussed the need to demonstrate what the group stands for, to fight for workers' rights on the job, and to organise petitions and leaflets. The mood was for the group to continue to build itself among CFMEU members in the ACT.