Industrial action certain if building worker jailed

August 16, 2009
Video: One law for all! YouTube/peterboyle53.

Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union national secretary Dave Noonan said that if building worker and CFMEU member Ark Tribe is jailed for defying the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) there would be industrial action until he was released.

Noonan spoke to a cheering crowd of more than 300 supporters outside Elizabeth Magistrates Court on August 11.

Supporters chanted "one law for all" as Tribe entered the courthouse. His alleged crime is failure to attend an interrogation hearing at the request of the ABCC.

The ABCC was set up under the government of former prime minister John Howard to crush the industrial power of the construction industry unions. If convicted, Tribe could face a six-month jail term.

CFMEU state secretary Martin O'Malley chaired the rally. He said the campaign was about protecting the rights of all workers and to end the undemocratic powers of the ABCC.

He compared Tribe with the famous bushrangers Ben Hall and Ned Kelly. "We will not be bullied. Ark is a hero but he is being treated like a criminal", he said.

David Winderlich, an Australian Democrats state MP, said the ABCC laws were more like anti-terrorism laws. He pointed out that construction workers were the ones who built the courthouse.

State Greens MP Mark Parnell told the rally that the Greens had fought against the Rudd government's policy of keeping the ABCC's coercive powers in the new Fair Work Australia tribunal. "This abomination needs to go", he said.

SA Unions secretary Janet Giles said the South Australian union movement was committed to getting rid of the ABCC, which unfairly discriminates against building workers. "There should be one law for all regardless of where you work", she said.

Dave Noonan said the ABCC's treatment of Tribe was, "unfair, unjust and draconian".

"These laws were conceived in spite and hatred by John Howard", he said. "Just as the Howard government had conspired illegally to sack thousands of the waterside workers, they conspired to remove from thousands of construction workers the right to have a union and union representation in the workplace."

Noonan said there is no need for the "safeguards" the ALP says are in Fair Work Australia. "If you don't have bad laws, you don't need safeguards against bad laws."

He concluded: "The government has said, 'its all over, we have put these laws in place'. But if one Australian construction worker is jailed under these laws, there will be a reaction, there will be industrial action and there will be a nationwide mobilisation and response that will continue until that worker is released."

The case was adjourned until October 30. The CFMEU successfully moved that the next hearing be held at the Adelaide Magistrates Court in the city centre.

Protest outside the ALP national conference in Sydney against the ABCC and in defence of building workers' rights, July 31:

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