Construction workers defy Kennett's public holiday law

Issue 

Picture

Construction workers defy Kennett's public holiday law

By Michael Bull

MELBOURNE — Tens of thousands of Victorian construction workers defied Federal Court orders when they did not work on Monday, April 26, taking a holiday in lieu of Anzac Day, which fell on a Sunday this year.

The action was jointly sponsored by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Engineering Union (CFMEU), Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen's Association, Electrical Trades Union and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

The Victorian state government changed the legislation covering public holidays in 1993, outlawing a substitute day if the public holiday fell on a weekend.

CFMEU secretary Martin Kingham told Green Left Weekly, "Victoria and Tasmania are the only two states in the country that do not receive a substitute holiday". Rather than being treated as "second-class citizens" the construction unions placed a claim on the employer bodies.

The Master Builders Association and the Metal Trades Industry Association responded by seeking a court order that would force the unions to withdraw their demands, place an advertisement in the daily newspapers calling for all members to attend work and stop all industrial action.

The courts ruled in the employers' favour on all counts except for the advertisement, but the unions decided to proceeded with the action.

Construction sites across Victoria are now pursuing payment for the day, against the court orders, placing the onus on the employers as to whether they seek damages from the union or not.