This year’s May Day motto is the “struggle to repeal anti-working class laws”- a clumsy phrase that sounds like its been found in the pages of a dusty old textbook. Despite that, it’s a safe bet that for the 107 construction workers who are currently being sued by the Government’s Australian Building Construction Commission (ABCC) that May Day couldn’t be more relevant.
So just what have these 107 construction workers done to end up in the Federal Court facing fines of $30,000 each? The ABCC has prosecuted them all for taking unlawful industrial action. Or to put it plainly they went on strike without that strike action being approved by the law. Which under the current law is a very hard thing to achieve indeed. Taking industrial action is illegal in all circumstances except during negotiations for a federal workplace agreement, and is only legal if a secret ballot of all workers involved has been completed.
So why did they go on strike? Simply to stand up for another worker. As their website points out: “the company refused to reinstate sacked union representative Peter Ballard unless the workers and the union unconditionally dropped all negotiations to fix long-standing safety concerns and excessive working hours issues on the trouble-plagued New MetroRail project and accept all company-imposed changes to agreed work practices without negotiation or resistance.”
Another question. How would firies react to that kind of bullying if we moved to the federal industrial relations system? It’s a safe bet we’d be tools down on the grass. And just like the WA construction workers we’d be fined too. We’d also be fined $30,000 per offence, per firefighter if we continued to ban installing smoke alarms, Vehicle Inspection Check Sheets or auditing Station telephone bills. Not to mention relieving bans.
Its not just ludicrous fines that make laws unjust. Only today, a dozen retrenched port workers have told of their dismay at being given 15 minutes to leave their work site after up to 26 years of service. The good ol’ trick of sacking someone for ambiguous “operational reasons” is being trotted out again, with hard working people being given the boot- with no recourse and no re-instatement.
Plainly these laws are unjust and anti-worker. That’s why May Day continues to matter to all workers and their families. We’ll kicking off at the Union office at 1030am Sunday 6 May and marching to Hyde Park. We hope you can make it.