Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Construction workers protest against ABCC

Reading Time: 2 minutes

On the November 26 the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped the charges against CFMEU official Noel Washington. This happened just days before a national defence rally that was scheduled for December 2.

Washington was facing possible jail time for refusing to co-operate with the anti-democratic Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). The ABCC was set up in 2005 to bully, harass and intimidate construction workers, and deny them their right to organise.

Despite this victory thousands of workers across the country came out to protest against the ABCC on December 2. In Sydney more than 1000 workers marched through the CBD while in Perth another 1000 people gathered near Parliament House. In Queensland, hundreds more workers marched on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Brisbane office. In Melbourne more than 5000 workers rallied outside the ABCC headquarters.

It was clear from the mood in Melbourne that construction workers are fed up with the fact that the Rudd Government is refusing to abolish the ABCC. Despite this, many of the union officials who spoke on the day, when referring to current industrial relations legislation and the ABCC, still called them ‘Howard’s laws’.

ETU State Secretary Dean Mighell received a resounding echo when he clarified that Howard’s anti-worker legislation has since been wholly adopted by the current Labor Government. Michele O’Neil spoke of the wider ramifications of the ABCC, with her members in the TCFUA facing discrimination under the same legislation.

The main contradiction that was not mentioned on the day was that all of the construction unions are still handing over hundreds of thousands of dollars in affiliation fees to the Labor Party. The same party that threatened to jail Noel Washington! The unions need to break from the Labor Party once and for all and there is no better reason than the continued existence of the ABCC.

Victorian Trades Hall Secretary Brian Boyd called for ‘no co-operation’ with the ABCC, but failed to concretely state what he meant by this. He also spoke of the need for more people like Noel Washington, who were prepared to stand up to these anti-democratic laws.

The Socialist Party supports the call for no co-operation with the ABCC, but believes this needs to take the form of collective action. It should not be left up to a few brave martyrs like Washington. Construction workers should stop work if an ABCC official enters a work site, and threaten industry wide strikes if the ABCC takes further action.

The role of the ABCC is to weaken a strong union by threatening individuals. The response from the union movement needs to be collective. As the saying goes ‘touch one, touch all’.

By Mel Gregson


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