In pushing the Australian Building and Construction Commission Bill through the parliament, Malcom Turnbull has lived up to the reactionary anti-worker agenda set in train by his predecessor John Howard.
The establishment of this ‘union smashing’ body enables government ministers to impose an employment code on government contractors and to strike out collective agreements agreed to by employers and unions.
In some ways, the ABCC has more power than the police as it can drag workers before a tribunal, strip them of their right to silence and deny them the right to choose a lawyer. It is a ‘star chamber’ in the tradition of tory autocratic rule.
Fundamentally it will make construction sites less safe as it allows bosses to obstruct workers seeking union help on safety issues. After Howard introduced the first version of the ABCC fatalities rose 37%. The construction sector still accounts for the highest number of workplace fatalities.
Significantly the ABCC prohibits so-called ‘unlawful’ industrial action such as picketing. Penalties of up to $180,000 can be imposed on unions and $36,000 on individual workers. As well it can fine workers who attend union meetings and jail them for 6 months if they refuse to submit to interrogation.
In the words of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry boss Mark Stone: “the cost of construction in Victoria is high… and the ABCC must now be given the resources… to get on with the job to enable growth in this industry”.
Clearly this is an admission by the bosses to embark on a crusade of union busting in order to advance the profits of the capitalist class and override the safety of workers. Unsurprisingly the Labor Party has hardly raised a whimper against these draconian laws. Organised labour must fight this anti-worker legislation, as an attack on one is an attack on all.
By Mike Naismith