‘The Socialist’ talks to West Australian building worker and CFMEU member Bill about the recent explosive industrial dispute at the city end of the Perth to Mandurah rail link. Bill worked on this job as a labourer for five months.
One hundred and seven construction workers employed on the Perth to Mandurah rail link project were issued with writs last month that could result in them being forced by a federal court to pay massive individual fines for taking a collective decision to strike. The $1.5-billion project is a Leighton Kumagai Joint Venture (LKJV).
The Socialist: Bill tell us about your time on this project
Bill: “We were building one of the underground stations, and a train line cover. From day one the management were poorly organised. There were more engineers than workers on the job at one stage. The bosses didn’t really want the CFMEU on the job. They much preferred the moderate AWU. Apart from the building of the station the project was mostly all civil work.
“They were making it damn hard for the union. They did not comply with occupational health and safety legislation and took forever to get things sorted. Management continually broke agreements with the union and often used threats and heavy handed tactics to force us to work in unacceptable conditions. They claimed two days a month were lost in industrial action, yet I was there for five months and only saw two days of industrial action. The bosses were including RDOs, inclement weather, and safety issues in their count.
“They then sacked the CFMEU shop steward Peter Ballard. The boys had a meeting to discuss the issue and they voted to walk off the job. The union executive didn’t really want them to but they wanted to take a stand. They’d had a gutful, the bosses had gotten rid of other people and Peter’s case was just the last straw. They went out for ten days, when they went back they got fined. The bosses went to the Australian Building and Construction Commission, who issued them with an intent to fine. Now they have gone through with that. The workers could face up to $28,000 each. This is the first time individual workers have been fined under Howard’s industrial relations laws.
“The unions are now collecting money to pay the fines. If the fines are paid it’s a cop-out, heaps of the boys are willing to stand up, even if they are shitting themselves, they will fight.”
The Socialist Party believes the fines should not be paid as it will only encourage the bosses and federal government to continue on this line of attack. Instead there needs to be a massive industrial and community campaign of action to defy and defeat these laws. The workers on the job are ready to fight they need to be supported.
By Socialist Party reporters