BY MICHAEL BULL
MELBOURNE — For the second time, unions and the community will rally in support of Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union state secretary Martin Kingham, who is facing contempt charges against the Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry. A 10,000-strong rally accompanied Kingham to the Magistrates Court last year, where the case was adjourned to be heard on February 6.
This scene is set to be repeated at the February 6 rally called by the Victorian Trades Hall Council and building unions. The rally will begin at VTHC and escort Kingham to the Magistrates Court, where the charges will be heard.
The charges result from Kingham refusing to hand to the commission the names and addresses of CFMEU shop stewards who have attended the union's shop steward courses. If convicted, Kingham faces up to six months' jail.
Kingham and the union leadership are adamant that these lists will be used by the royal commission and other industry bodies to draft an industry blacklist of union militants.
Charges have also been laid by the royal commission on other senior union officials. CFMEU assistant secretary Bill Oliver and the Victorian Federated Engine Drivers and Fireman's Association secretary Tom Watson are both facing up to twelve months' jail if convicted of contempt charges. The charges were laid when the two unions staged a walkout on Grocon jobs to attend an anti-royal commission rally late last year.
The federal Workplace Relations Act prohibits those who have been convicted of offences that carry a potential penalty of 12 months or more from holding official union positions for a period of five years from the date of conviction. These charges will be heard later this year.
The Victorian CFMEU has passed motions through all the union's democratic bodies, including a mass meeting of all members, supporting the leadership's actions and condemning the royal commission's blatant attacks on unions.
Meanwhile, the royal commission has, for the second time, delayed handing down its findings. Its original deadline in early December passed by, to be replaced subsequently by a deadline of January 31. The CFMEU has been notified that now findings will be handed down on February 24. No explanation was given as to the reasons for extension of the royal commission's deadline. Union sources suspect that the timing is designed to coincide with the New South Wales state election.
VTHC and the building unions have called a meeting for all union delegates, officials and activists on February 27 to discuss the findings of the royal commission and to plan a united response.
The rally to defend Kingham will meet outside VTHC, the corner of Lygon street and Victoria Parade, at 9am on February 6. For more information, phone the CFMEU on (03) 9341 3444.
From Green Left Weekly, January 29, 2003.
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