forestry

In a clear win for the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU), the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has ruled that Eureka Flags and other union banners can be flown from cranes on building sites.

The decision is another setback for the federal Coalition government and its industrial police force, the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

As the government’s criminal case against Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) officials John Setka and Shaun Reardon ended in embarrassing collapse, unions called for the repeal of draconian secondary boycott laws.

Sympathy strikes are one of the most common forms of secondary boycott. They involve a union taking industrial action to force a company to cease trading with another company until the targeted company agrees to industrial demands. The law against secondary boycotts thus interferes with the right of workers to campaign collectively.

In the biggest union mobilisation in Australia in more than a decade, up to 120,000 unionists and supporters descended on the streets of Melbourne on May 9.

The protest was organised as part of the Change the Rules campaign. The rally followed a mass delegates meeting in April and was the conclusion of nearly a fortnight of union actions across the country to launch the campaign.

Hundreds of trade unionists braved the rain at Solidarity Park, outside the WA State Parliament, on March 21 to protest against what the organisers describe as a “war on workers”.

The rally was hosted by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), and heard from various unions and members of parliament.

Production and distribution workers at Carlton & United Breweries' (CUB) Abbotsford plant in Melbourne brought the site to a standstill for three hours on August 25, threatening further action if 55 sacked workers were not reinstated.

Two hundred members of United Voice and the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) at the brewery held a stop-work meeting to condemn CUB's sacking of its maintenance staff and raised concerns about the impact this has had on safety standards.

Fifty years ago building worker activists took back control of their union, the NSW Builders Labourers Federation (BLF), from a leadership clique that ignored the members.

Under the new leadership of , the re-energised BLF created high standards for workplace safety, decent pay, union democracy, accountable leadership, community engagement and, most famously, Green Bans.

In all the media hype about Malcolm Turnbull's recalling of parliament in April and talk of a double dissolution election, it is easy to lose sight of the “trigger” — the Australian Building and Construction Commission bill (ABCC bill).

I recently heard an ABC Radio National commentator talking about the use of the ABCC bill as the trigger. She said words to the effect that most people would be in favour of cleaning up construction unions as only 11% of workers are in unions now. So it was considered to be a winner for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

China’s Second Continent: How a million migrants are building a new Empire in Africa
Howard W French
Knopf
Published May 20, 2014
304 pages
www.howardwfrench.com

In his 2009 film Rethink Afghanistan, director Robert Greenwald suggested that the US should not try to control the world through military means, but by building schools and hospitals in the countries it wishes to invade.

Journalist Howard French's book China's Second Continent shows how such a model can work in practice.

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