Thousands of workers protest the ABCC

Around Australia, thousands of unionists, led by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), took to the streets on June 20 as part of a national day of action against the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), attacks on penalty rates, wage theft by employers and exploitation of migrant workers.

The CFMEU was joined by hundreds of other workers in contingents including nurses, teachers, firefighters, financial sector workers, public sector workers, university staff, manufacturing workers, electrical trades and maritime workers.

In Sydney, more than 10,000 unionists assembled in Belmore Park, before marching to Hyde Park, where they were addressed by union leaders, including NSW Secretary of the CFMEU (Construction & General Division) Rita Mallia, Assistant National Secretary of the CFMEU Dave Noonan, National Secretary of the Finance Sector Union Julia Agrisano, Secretary of the MUA Sydney Branch Paul McAlear and NSW Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) Tim Ayers.

A cross-union delegates meeting is being organised by Unions NSW on July 28. Ahead of the delegates meeting, unionists are organising to press for further action around the government's anti-union agenda in August.

In Melbourne, about 20,000 unionists gathered outside the Victorian Trades Hall before marching from Trades Hall to Flinders Street Station. They were there to send a strong message about stopping the war on workers, fighting back against the ABCC, and stopping the Turnbull government’s pernicious new building code. The rally was widely attended by a broad range of white and blue collar unions coordinated by the Victorian Trades Hall Council.

The rally heard from Victorian Trades Hall Council's Luke Hilakari, Victorian CFMEU secretary John Setka, ACTU president Ged Kearney and Electrical Trades Union (ETU) Victorian branch secretary Troy Gray.

Gray said: “Under this government after 26 years of successive growth we have the lowest wage outcomes in Australia’s history and the highest casual labour rate ever. […] Corporate companies have been given the green light to initiate the war on workers.”

He called on all unions to have a mass delegates meeting to develop a log of claims to put to politicians before the next election. The log of claims would include getting rid of the ABCC, Turnbull’s building code, and regulating overseas visas. “We can only do this collectively and if you turn out en mass like you have today,” Gray said.

In Brisbane, workers flooded the streets in protest against the Turnbull government’s attacks on workers' rights, including bringing back the ABCC and slashing penalty rates. About 4000 workers, mostly from the CFMEU, ETU, AMWU and the Plumbers Union, marched from Emma Miller Place to the Brisbane headquarters of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, where the crowd demanded Commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss’s resignation.

Acting State Secretary of ETU Queensland Peter Ong said the ABCC and the building code was a “nationwide form of blackmail”.

In Perth more than 5000 unionists turned out in force against the government, the new building code, and the ABCC. UnionsWA Secretary Meredith Hammat addressed the crowd.

The Armidale branch of the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union launched their newsletter Fightback in front of Centrelink on June 20, the date chosen as a mark of solidarity with the CFMEU rallies.

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