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Raid on CFMEU, just coincidence or police protecting profits?

Written by: Louisa L. on 23 November 2020


When CFMEU's NSW Construction Division Assistant Secretary Michael Greenfield was ambushed in his driveway by men calling his name early last Monday, he ran inside for safety. Then they tried to kick down his front door. Only when that failed did they announce they were police. He immediately opened the door. His wife and three-year-old child were also inside.

Construction has always been a tough industry. When unions shut worksites, as they have recently, things can get nasty.

At dawn, fifteen NSW and Federal police with dogs also arrived at Secretary Darren Greenfield's family home. Police spent six hours turning things over. Then the union was raided. Workers on trade union courses were ejected.

Elections, safety and industrial manslaughter
The day before the raid, the union's elections opened. Just coincidence?

Nothing to do with a union blitz on sites targeting builders operating unsafely?
No link to another critical CFMEU campaign for a law against industrial manslaughter, which is already on the books in Queensland, Victoria and WA?

When 18-year-old Christopher Cassaniti died under collapsed scaffolding last year, construction workers erupted in grief and outrage. More dangerously for the boss class, Christopher's death provoked fury against police who threatened workers trying to rescue those underneath the mangled scaffold, and strikes against corporate culpability and inaction.

Three days after the raid, SafeWork NSW settled a case against a construction company over Christopher's death, in the words of Darren Greenfield, "effectively the cost of the company's insurance excess".

"They are putting corporate greed ahead of workers' lives" Greenfield said. Who knows what action workers would have taken if the union hadn't been dealing with the raids?

Bleeding workers 24/7
But above all, union insiders believe the key reason is a union demand for a new RDO (Rostered Day Off) calendar with a nine-day-fortnight and a 15 per cent pay rise. These demands eat into profit. For corporations, money is the bottom line, not human life.

Big meetings were due to take place that week to finalise agreements. Some big construction companies have been pressuring workers to accept non-union agreements. Workers at other sites have been loud in support for those resisting this pressure.

Construction sites are working flat out, finishing two to four months before schedule but are whingeing about two weeks lost to RDOs. Workers aren't having it. Long hours play havoc with health and family. Their comparatively big pay packets are peanuts compared to corporate profits made off their sweat. "We deserve a break!" is their battle cry. 

Some corporations, like giants Lend Lease, Crown and Multiplex, used Covid-19 as an excuse to begin continuous shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The federal government assisted by pressuring councils to relax Development Application rules.

To give an idea of the size of these corporations, Multiplex is now owned by Canadian-headquartered Brookfield Asset Management which has $US510.6 billion under management.

AFP Canberra raids unlawful
Workers see these raids for what they are, attempts to threaten a union that organises its members to fight for their collective rights. Not one member has contacted the union to question its so-called law breaking.

According to CFMEU National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan, "The warrant relates to investigations under the Fair Work Act and related matters.
"The AFP have been taking an increasingly active role in industrial relations matters, and have previously raided CFMEU Offices in Canberra and Brisbane.     
"Neither of those raids resulted in any charges being laid against any union official.
"In the case of Canberra, the AFP actions were found to be unlawful by the ACT Supreme Court," Mr Noonan stated.
No arrests have been made, nor any charges laid in the latest raids.

Militarisation of police with military in reserve
For the NSW Construction Division, it's business as usual. But the raid highlights another dangerous trend. We are being prepared for a significantly increased police and military presence in all our lives. Police and army are regularly fronting the cameras instead of public officials. Witness the recent Covid scare in South Australia.

Militarised police are more often attacking everyday Australians exercising hard won collective rights. Riot squads attack peaceful student protests. Black deaths in custody escalate. As unemployment and underemployment rise in many sectors and everyday people see their "Australian dream" trashed, dissatisfaction will grow.

A law in the Senate right now allows the Defence Minister, not parliament or even prime minister, to call the army to unspecified "emergencies" which could easily apply to striking workers or farmers or unemployed. It even allows foreign military forces to attack our people. If someone is killed or injured, the military and police - foreign or local - will have immunity from prosecution.

Corporations run capitalism. Police are increasingly used against those who don't comply, who refuse to be crushed. The military waits in the wings.
Unity is the only answer.


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