In August, the $1 billion three tower beachfront “Jewel” construction site on the Gold Coast celebrated reaching their maximum height.
By the end of September, Chinese investors Yuhu Group Australia had decided to “redesign” parts of remaining works to the hotel portion of the complex in Surfers Paradise, resulting in 150 workers being unceremoniously sacked.
Seeing this attack on the workers for what it truly was, over 500 workers downed tools and walked off the site in protest. The “adjustments” to construction were nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to sack workers from the CFMEU and ETU so that cheaper, non-unionised workers could step in.
In the following days a vote to strike halted construction and a picket line was established. The striking workers and their unions were kept in the dark while Yuhu went to the press to say that there would be “no major job losses”.
The Gold Coast Mayor, Tom Tate of the LNP came out to bat for Yuhu, saying they “had a right to redesign”. He reiterated that there would be no net job losses. But he failed to comment on the nature of those jobs.
For over two weeks workers refused to return to work and maintained an unbroken picket line while union officials negotiated with Yuhu and contractor Multiplex. By mid-October the bosses had capitulated and the workers returned to work on the union’s terms and conditions.
The brief struggle of the Jewel site workers is rich in lessons, for bosses and workers alike. Investors, whether overseas or Australian, would do well to think twice before they try to undermine hard fought and won terms and conditions.
More so however, workers in all sectors should look to solidarity and militant struggle as the key means to not only defend our conditions, but also to win improvements.
By Eóin Dawson