HUNTER unionists joined colleagues in Sydney in rallies calling for the abolition of the Coalition government’s Australian Building and Construction Commission.
Hunter Workers secretary Daniel Wallace said he was pleased with the turnout in Newcastle after the rally was called at short notice.
A reported 5000 people took part in the Sydney rally, which was led by the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union.
The union has been a prime target of the Coalition federal government and new Prime Minister Scott Morrison revived threats to deregister it this week after Victorian construction division union official John Setka tweeted a Fathers’ Day picture of his young children holding a sign telling the government to “get f...ed”, which Mr Morrison called “the straw that breaks the camel's back”.
Mr Wallace said the Newcastle rally marched from Civic Park to the tram sheds at Foreshore Park, with speeches by Brendan Holl of the CFMMEU’s construction division, Steve Murphy from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and Newcastle state Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp.
Mr Wallace said the Coalition was using the CFMMEU to its political advantage, which was something the union movement as a whole was unwilling to put up with.
“The rule of law is based on the general application of the law across all the community it is and remains unfair that construction workers have different laws in place to other workers,” Mr Wallace said.
“In the Hunter we have 10 years of no industrial action on major construction sites and yet the ABBC wants to agitate employers to cease communication with unions and stop unions from effectively representing their members.”
Mr Wallace said there would be another day of action next month under the banner “Down the tools to change the rules”.
The Master Builders Australia said today’s protests were "regrettable" because the ABCC was designed to protect workers who weren't union members, along with small business owners, sub-contractors and tradespeople.
"While the CFMMEU chooses to flout the law the victims of its bullying and the wider community want the union to devote the same effort to obeying the law like everyone else," MBA chief executive Denita Wawn said in a statement.
"Sadly the CFMMEU chooses the opposite.
“This financial year alone, courts have found that 10 CFMMEU officials have broken 14 industrial laws on at least 19 occasions over 4 states, causing 6 separate penalty decisions culminating in penalties totalling over $1million – an average of over $120,000 each and every week.”
At the Sydney rally, CFMMEU maritime division official Paul McAleer told the crowd it was the Coalition’s anti-worker laws, not the union, that was in the wrong.
"This is what breaking unjust laws looks like," McAleer told the cheering crowd.
“This government has to realise that the extreme laws they've put in place are not enough and not big enough to tame us. There is not a law big or ugly enough in this country for us not to fight it or for us not to break it.”
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