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Vol. 78/No. 9      March 10, 2014

Australia construction workers
walk out over co-worker’s death
SYDNEY — Five hundred building workers, members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, walked off the job Jan. 9 at the Barangaroo construction site on Sydney Harbour to protest the death of one of their co-workers — a 26-year-old trainee who was unsupervised when he fell 30 meters (100 feet) from scaffolding.

The young man, whose name has not been released, enrolled in a training program for young Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders two weeks earlier.

Construction is among the industries in Australia with the highest rates of injuries and deaths, accounting for more than 10 percent of workers killed on the job. The bosses’ drive for profit killed 19 construction workers last year; 25 the year before.

After the accident, police closed off the site as a “crime scene,” refusing entry to the union and government safety officials.

Meanwhile, the CFMEU has been under attack by the capitalist media and Liberal government through a slander campaign, legal probes and anti-union legislation.

On Jan. 28 the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story headlined “Bribery, Dirty Deals Rife in Building Industry” that claimed union officials were accepting company bribes to win contracts. The “evidence” uncovered by a joint investigation by the Herald and ABC’s 7.30 TV program, included tapped conversations, bank records and police files.

Prime Minister Anthony Abbott is setting up a royal commission — a judicial inquiry with far-reaching powers — to probe the finances of the CFMEU and other unions.

Abbott has also called for the reinstatement of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, with increased powers and funding to re-establish “a strong cop on the beat.”

Set up in 2005, the ABCC was given sweeping powers to interrogate construction workers and union representatives, with threats of imprisonment for not snitching. In 2012 the Labor government replaced the ABCC with another body that retained many of its coercive powers. Re-establishing the ABCC would bring higher penalties and greater powers to restrict picket lines.

According to the CFMEU, the introduction of the ABCC brought more deaths on the job, with restrictions on union officials’ right to enter building sites and intimidating effects on construction workers.

Those facing criminal charges have the right to remain silent, John Burns, 67, a working delegate of the CFMEU in Sydney told the Militant. “But under the ABCC laws, no building worker has the right to remain silent.”
Related articles:
From Iowa to W.Va., profit drive threatens land and labor
What’s behind vote against UAW at Tenn. auto plant?
Fight for workers control of industry
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