A man stands at the edge of the West Gate bridge. He’s contemplating ending it all. Many people drive by. But only a few stop. And two of them are Terry Bracks and Steve Bracks. The prospective jumper says former Premier Steve Bracks and his wife Terry talked him around, “saving his life.”
That very same bridge has had some work underway with construction company John Holland to build barriers and fencing that would make it much more difficult for people to commit suicide from the bridge. That life-saving work has been delayed though because of the construction division of the CFMEU in Victoria, led by Bill Oliver.
Paid as much as $43 a hour with site allowances in some places, with a base rate of $33 an hour, the union’s members wouldn’t work for the company’s offer of $33 an hour. Fair enough, no one is forcing them. When there’s enough work on, these blokes can pull annual incomes well over six figures, the highest incomes in the nation for “unskilled” work.
When the company made it clear they were offering $33 an hour not $43 an hour, all hell broke loose.
One company manager, Gary Marshall, was attacked by 15 drunk yobs claiming to represent the union. Their misconduct is apparently surprising common on building sites, not traditionally places for the faint-hearted.
But the list below from The Australian drawn from Marshall’s affidavit is a catalogue of thuggery and disgrace that prompted a federal court judge to grant the company’s application for an injunction:
This is the same organisation that is believed to have signed a deal with two moderate unions – the NUW and SDA – to muscle Premier John Brumby over preselections and government spending decisions. While those two large affiliates are actively pursuing alternative arrangements, any association with CFMEU Construction must surely be very carefully considered.
There are a number of unions, like the Police Association, the Journalist’s union and the public servants’ union (the CPSU) where it makes little sense for its members to be affiliated with the Labor Party.Â All of those categories of people need to be seen to be above politics and independent from partisanship.
Surely it is now time for the ALP to position itself to be above the violence and blatant corruption of the CFMEU Construction division in Victoria. One senior ALP activist aligned with the two moderate unions told VEXNEWS “No one wants to deal with them, they are the ugly face of unionism in Australia, a throwback to another dangerous era.”
While it’s considered unlikely the NUW and SDA will continue with any close association with Bill Oliver at the CFMEU, the fact that they were able to hold their nose for so long during discussions with him indicates some of the dangers ahead that seem to haunt every long-time Labor government.
Both federal and state governments would be well advised to consider further measures to protect the economy from the delays, banditry and thuggery of the CFMEU, particularly as government financed construction projects appear to be at the heart of their stimulus strategy to get the nation through the global financial crisis with a minimum of pain.