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Chinese state-owned John Holland backs ABCC in threatening Australian construction workers

Nick G.

A Chinese-owned construction company has joined forces with the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) to threaten construction workers participating in national Change the Rules rallies with individual fines of $42,000.

The threat came in a secret email sent to its sub-contractors by the John Holland Group.

Established in 1949 by Australian national bourgeois John Holland, the company became one of Australia’s largest building and infrastructure construction companies.  In 1991, it was bought out by the widow of one of Australia’s richest capitalists, Robert Homes à Court, who had died the year before. In 2000, Leighton Holdings, created by an English capitalist but taken over by Spain’s Hochtief corporation, took over the John Holland Group. The Spanish owners of Leightons sold John Holland in December 2014 to China Communications Construction for $1.15 billion. They are the sole owner of the Group and a Chinese state-owned enterprise.  The Chairman of the Board of Directors in Lu Jianzhong.

Any thought that John Holland might have changed its anti-union and anti-worker agenda when it came under Chinese control, under the control of an enterprise of a supposedly “socialist” state, was soon dispelled. The Australian construction union the CFMMEU, alleges a litany of breaches of awards and enterprise agreements by John Holland and its sub-contractors throughout 2017, including non-payment of overtime and allowances, payment of below Award wages, failure to provide proper breaks, as well as breaches around payment of superannuation.

CFMEU National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan said the union had detailed 55 alleged contraventions of the Fair Work Act in its claim. The union is seeking the repayment by John Holland and its sub-contractors of $700,000 in unpaid wages and entitlements to workers on the Canberra Light Rail project.

When construction workers were called upon by their union to attend national rallies in support of the Australian Council of Trade Union’s campaign to Change the Rules and to seek long-denied wage rises, the Chinese-owned construction giant was caught out bullying its subcontractors into keeping records on workers who attend political rallies, threatening legal action and fines.  In a leaked email to its subcontractors, John Holland Group said that workers attending the national rallies might be participating in “unprotected industrial action”, that may lead to “investigation by the Australian Building and Construction Commission”. The union said the company’s action came after the ABCC last week threatened to fine construction workers up to $42,000 for participating in the national Change the Rules protests. Here we have a major Chinese investor in Australia working hand-in-glove with the hated anti-worker ABCC to threaten, intimidate and ultimately fine and gaol workers for simply taking time off work to exercise their democratic right to speak out in an organised and collective way.

When Chinese capital, state or private, is exported to other parts of the global capitalist economy, it can only follow the laws of motion of capital in general.  The state that promotes and encourages this export of capital is not a socialist state, but a capitalist state, a state that is socialist in words, but imperialist in deeds.

A socialist country during the era of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, China stood firm against imperialism and supported the peoples of the world in their revolutionary struggles against colonialism, feudalism and capitalism.  After Mao’s death, Deng Xiaoping introduced an era of significant “reforms” which saw China depart from the socialist road, do a massive political U-turn, and embrace global capitalism. 

It is now in conflict with, and not an ally of, the peoples of the world.


Chinese state-owned John Holland backs ABCC in threatening Australian construction workers
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