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Who benefits from attacks on the construction workers’ union?

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Ned K.

The construction workers' union has been under attack since before the de-registration of the BLF in the 1980s. The latest Royal Commission in to Trade Unions is the formal part of the latest attack. With each decade passing new arrivals on the construction industry scene will benefit from any weakening of construction workers' pay and conditions won by them by being active members of their union.            

One of the recent developers on the scene is the $75 billion Poly Group from China through its property arm Poly Real Estate. It plans to build 1,000 homes each year for five years in Victoria. It recently took a major stake in Southlink. Southlink specialises in building high rise apartment blocks, including the Claremont Manor project in South Yarra and a 650 apartment project in Docklands.

The Poly Group is a diverse conglomerate which also exports weapons to other countries. The managing director of the Poly Real Estate arm in Australia, Mr Yuan Tao, was quick to distance the real estate arm from the weapons export arm of Poly Group. 

What happens on building sites where the Poly Group are involved will be a good test to see how the attack on the construction workers' union impacts on the job, especially in relation to pay and conditions, safety and rights of migrant workers on building sites.

If the construction workers’ union is de-registered or further enmeshed in legal restrictions to inhibit its ability to represent workers, will this be the next step towards a plan by foreign-owned capital to selectively replace union member construction workers with imported cheaper labour under Free Trade Agreements? 

If the construction workers' union is de-registered, perhaps there will be a tame-cat union leadership waiting in the wings, or is the plan by foreign capital to push the compliant government to legislate to enable the formation of "enterprise unions" as is the case in Japan and some developing countries?

The history of class struggle in the construction industry in Australia suggests that no matter what foreign capital and their governments do, they will never prevent construction workers from organizing collectively to defend their rights and jobs and fight for decent pay and conditions.

Construction workers have been leaders in the overall working class struggle in Australia and will continue to be in the future.


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