The leaders of the two main parliamentary political parties, with their “just-like-us” nicknames used to try and endear themselves to the people, Scott Morrison (“Scomo”, or better, “Scummo”) and Anthony Albanese (“Albo”), join the chorus to varying degrees. Scomo through his media statements and his planned anti-union Ensuring Integrity Bill 2017, and Albo by attacking one of the Construction division’s leading officials in an attempt to stamp his authority as the new leader of the ALP and provide cover for the party’s rightward swing after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the May federal election.
Regrettably, ACTU leaders and leaders from some other Unions have been all too quick to fall in line with the ALP leader, chipping in with their public opinion of who should resign from the Construction division of the CFMMEU leadership in the state where it is most under attack, Victoria. It goes against the democratic notion that a union’s members should decide who leads their union, and so far, the membership hasn’t been shy in voicing their opinion on the borderline interference in their union.
This split in the organised workers movement, brought on by the factionalism and bourgeois politicking of the ALP, does nothing but strengthen the hand of the anti-union, anti-worker forces led by the big multinational corporations through their willing main parliamentary mouthpiece Prime Minister Morrison.
These reactionary forces have as a priority the passing of the Ensuring Integrity Bill 2017 and to eventually use it to de-register the CFMMEU, or at least some divisions of it. The Bill will allow the government to remove elected officials of a union if they are deemed not to be “fit and proper” to lead a union due to unlawful behaviour. With some of the most restrictive anti-union legislation in the word already on the books in Australia, even the most fundamental activities of a union official, like entering a workplace to talk to members, can easily become an “unlawful behaviour”. Too much unlawful behaviour, and a union can be de-registered.
It’s no surprise then that one of the most effective unions today, the CFMMEU Construction division, which is willing to break unjust laws to serve its members in a very dangerous industry, is the main target of the new Bill. However, the main game for the reactionary forces is not only to give a clear path to exploitation and swindle in the construction industry.
That is only the first step. Other industry sector bosses will try to wipe out other unions as well. In the services sector, where union membership is growing, the private for-profit employers want "union free” workplaces. They are pushing the government to further weaken Right of Entry provisions, make it easier to sack workers and in particular, workers who are workplace leaders!
This latter point is their main game - weaken and destroy organisation in the workplace. Not long ago, an Organiser put a child care campaign sticker on a utensil in the workers' lunch room while visiting a private sector child care centre. The Organiser found himself in court and fined for breach of Right of Entry!
With the Ensuring Integrity Bill coming to a workplace near you soon, this Organiser would quite possibly be struck off the list as a "fit and proper person" to be an Organiser.
One can imagine what anti-union bosses will do to anyone sticking their head up as a workplace Delegate with laws like this.
Those unionists who either deliberately or inadvertently weaken the broader union movement by attacking its most effective and militant section should be careful what they wish for. It is important that any union under attack from big business, the government, or the ALP, should be supported by other unions, union members and their communities.
It is naïve to think that the attack on unions by Morrison and Co will stop at the CFMMEU Construction division.
That is not the nature of the system of imperialist rule that we in Australia live under.
It is worth remembering Pastor Martin Niemoller 's famous lines in Germany in the 1930s with the rise of fascism.
"In Germany they first came for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics. and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me --- and by that time no-one was left to speak up."