Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

2000 union delegates meet in Melbourne

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This week over 2000 Victorian union delegates packed Dallas Brookes Hall in Melbourne to discuss the situation facing construction union official Noel Washington. Under an ALP government, Washington is facing up to six months jail for refusing to attend an Australian Building Construction Commission interrogation.

Despite this most union leaders still cling to the coattails of the ALP. They tell members that, while not perfect, the ALP will ease the pain on workers compared to the Coalition Government. When looking at the ABCC however, the statistics show otherwise.

The ABCC boss, John Lloyd, boasted to the media in July that in 2008, the ABCC’s activities have increased (since the election of the ALP Rudd government) and the number of investigations have risen compared to 2007. Site visits from the ABCC have increased from 15 last November to 109 in June.

Unions were investigated 73% of the time, employees 11% of the time, and in only 7% were head contractors looked at. Now the ABCC is trying to jail Washington for doing his job.

In other words, workers throughout the country mobilised to get rid of the Howard government in order to stop the assault on workers’ wages and conditions. The result was the Rudd ALP government. In the construction industry things have gotten worse.

The Socialist Party, stands almost alone calling on unions to disaffiliate from the ALP and establish a new mass workers’ party. It makes no sense at all to pay millions of dollars to the same party that is attacking our rights.

Unfortunately the union’s unprincipled relationship with the ALP was not discussed at the mass meeting and a motion from the floor calling for a 24-hour stoppage when Washington goes to court was ruled ‘out of order’ by the chair, Ann Taylor.

Taylor said “the motion was not in the spirit of the principle resolution”. It seems that according to the Trades Hall leaders anything that they are not in full agreement with should not even be democratically discussed!

The resolution that was passed did call for a mass rally on the day of the court hearing. This is a good start but as we have seen from the Your Rights at Work campaign mass rallies do not necessarily lead to governments changing legislation.

Industrial action will be required and it is a shame that the Trades Hall leaders did not use this meeting to have a full discussion about how the campaign will be run. Delegates were basically told to be on yellow alert and “we will get back to you when the court date is announced”. People were then told to leave the meeting and ask their members to send a protest email to Rudd.

Given the fact that talk about industrial action and the unions’ relationship with the ALP was left off the agenda it is safe to say that the Trades Hall leaders are not yet capable of mounting a campaign that will be able to scrap the ABCC. The Socialist Party hopes that this situation will change in the not to distant future.

By SP reporters


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