ETU mass meeting applauds Mighell's stance



MELBOURNE — Electrical Trades Union state secretary Dean Mighell received enthusiastic applause for his decision to leave the ALP at a mass meeting of some 800 ETU members on March 20.

In a passionate and fiery speech, Mighell said that the idea that unions had “too much influence” over the Labor Party was utter rubbish. “The ALP doesn't represent working-class people”, he said.

In discussion from the floor, union activists supported Mighell's stance and called for the matter of union affiliation to the Labor Party to be debated and voted on at the ETU's state conference in December.

The Cole royal commission into the building industry was also discussed by the meeting. Mighell described the commission as “the greatest witch-hunt, the greatest attack on our union in 100 years” and pledged that the union would resist the undemocratic, anti-worker attacks of the commission.

During the commission's last Melbourne hearings, the ETU was accused of taking $275,000 from Baulderstone Hornibrook, a large building company which holds a number of government contracts. In evidence to the commission, Mighell revealed that the building giant had in fact paid the money to a security company. Further, said Mighell, Baulderstone had discriminated against union activists by trying to keep ETU shop stewards off the building site at the National Gallery of Victoria.

The ETU members then voted for a motion from the floor which called for an apology from Baulderstone Hornibrook for its anti-union actions. The motion said that if no apology was forthcoming, ETU members would take action at Baulderstone sites, such as the extension to the Austin Hospital, and would call upon the government not to award the building giant any more state contracts.

Mighell explained that many workers' basic entitlements, including site and height allowances, safety provisions and workers' rights to organise and bargain collectively are in the commission's sights. “[Commissioner] Terence Cole looks at us from the position of the ruling class”, said Mighell.

The campaign to extend the 36-hour work week was also endorsed by the meeting.

The ETU aims to negotiate and sign off on a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement with employers before December, which is the deadline for the report from the royal commission.

From Green Left Weekly, March 27, 2002.
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