Threat to deregister construction union is a threat to the rights of all of us

By Jim Hayes

Indications that prime minister Scott Morrison may be moving to deregister the Construction Forestry Mining Maritime and Energy Union (CFMMEU), should set the alarm bells ringing for anyone who values a fair go.

Morrison is indicating that he will not only follow in Malcolm Turnbull’s footsteps, but lift the vendetta against the union to a new level.

He used a tweet by the union’s Victorian secretary John Setka, as the excuse to test the waters over radio on Monday.

It begs the question. Why is the CFMMEU being attacked?

The argument put forwards is that it is a rogue, defying the law, bullying employers and damaging the economy.

It is not the union that keeps on shifting the goal posts, creating an industrial relations environment, where unions cannot defend their members and carry out their wishes of their members. This has occurred at the hands of government, at the behest of  major employers, seeking to step up the exploitation of the Australian workforce.

Across Australia’s industries, the push has been bringing in underpayment, casualisation of work, denying wage growth and lowering safety standards. This is an attack on working conditions across the board. This of course, is not being called out as damaging the economy, and never mind that wellbeing of millions is being sacrificed.

The CFMMEU has been at the forefront in the opposition to this push. This is the reason why it is under attack.

Every time an official puts a demand on an employer there are headlines about bullying. Industrial relations are an adversarial situation. Arguments happen. There are two sides to them. But when only one side of an argument is highlighted and the other sept under the carpet, what has happened is distorted, and a false story is presented.

The industrial relations system has been moulded to reflect this and shows that the government is consistently waging a class war on the side of the employer.

Scott Morrison is also desperate to find a distraction pull away attention from the mounting controversies surrounding his government and threatening to make his prime ministership a short-lived affair. In this context, he is trying to use the attack on the union and its Victorian secretary John Setka, to damage the Labor Party, the Liberal Party’s parliamentary rival.

There are bigger implications surrounding this matter. The assault on working conditions and restriction of unions in their capacity to represent their members, is at the core of the current push to take away democratic rights that had been established by those who came before us.

Unions have been a major pillar in defence of these rights. The attack on unions is about pushing over this pillar and the targeting of the CFMMEU and its officials occurs within this context.

This affects us all. It is the reason why we should all be concerned. The CFMMEU needs our support and we need the CFMMEU.

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