A picket line that lasted for two weeks at the site of a water treatment plant in Werribee has been disbanded. The Age reported that the protesters left the site on February 14 after “police and the water authority warned them they were trespassing”.
The picketers — established by unemployed tradespeople — were protesting the employment practices of Tedra Australia and its associated subcontractors.
The federal court ruled on February 13 that organisers from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union are not allowed to attend the picket, although this injunction did not apply to community protesters.
Despite attempts in the mainstream media to paint the picketers as either “union thugs” or ignorant racists, the picketers were at pains to point out that the Filipino workers being helicoptered to the site, and employed on a 457 visa, were also exploited.
There were concerns these workers would end up working on a site where there has not been the appropriate safety assessments, or a requirement for qualifications such as Red Cards.
Tradespeople and community supporters at the picket were enormously grateful for the support of left organisations from the Phillipines, such as the Party of the Laboring Masses (PLM).
Spokesperson for the PLM, Sonny Melencio, said: "We don't want to be known in the world as scabbing for jobs of local workers. The Philippine government and the Department of Labor and Employment should ensure that this is stopped and our workers are given legal and proper jobs.
“This is the problem resulting from [the Filipino’s] government's insistence on labor export as our main employment policy. [The government] said there's no unemployment problem in the Philippines. Then go ahead and get these overseas Filipino workers, who are being used as scabs, proper and legal work here in the Philippines.
“PLM condemns the use of overseas Filipino workers to break up unemployed workers picket in Werribee and condemns the continuation of the export labor policy of the government. We demand safe and regular jobs in-country at a living wage.”