Construction workers to rally
By Michael Bull
The construction unions are aiming at the Howard government's latest anti-worker attacks with a national stoppage on May 20.
The government and building employers are attempting to reduce the construction award to just 20 "allowable matters", which would result in building workers losing many hard-won conditions.
Award provisions dealing with amenities, first-aid facilities, job steward's rights, inspection of wage books, inclement weather and union right of entry could be lost.
A recent decision in the Metal Industry Award removed penalty rates for weekend work, provided the employers got agreement from a majority of the employees. Unions believe that employees will be pressured into such agreements by the risk of losing their jobs.
The national stop-work and rally is, says Victorian Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union secretary Martin Kingham, the first stage of a three-stage campaign.
Stage two will be a campaign on work sites against any builder who attempts to break from industry-based agreements. Stage three is a "full steam ahead" campaign to re-elect Labor in the next federal elections.
Kingham said the third stage was conditional on the ALP promising to repeal the Workplace Relations Act, and Worksafe Australia increasing its funding of WorkCover to its original level.