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Issue #1555      11 July 2012

Perth workers rally

Despite threats issued by the new Australian Building and Construction Commission under the Fair Work Australia umbrella, close to 9,000 workers walked off the jobs in Perth on July 4.

Union members and the community concerned about their livelihoods came together despite the media attempt to divide the working class by playing the race card as a means to subvert the genuine concerns of workers. The rally brought together hundreds of CFMEU, MUA, AMWU, ETU, CEPU, CPSU and other white collar unions protesting about the lack of planning by government in authorising mine leases without any economic planning and without a plan to skill and train workers currently unable to access employment and for the next generation of workers.

The rally at Parliament House demanded jobs and training for local workers rather than the cheaper, shortsighted option allowed by the federal government in support of big business interests such as the Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMAs) being delivered by the government to Gina Rinehart.

Under the EMA signed recently for the Roy Hill site in the North West of WA up to 2,000 overseas workers will be allowed to undercut local workers at a cheaper rate and Gina Rinehart will be able to swell further the already obscene profits she draws from the labour of the working class. The guts of the agreement is that guest workers would get paid under common law contracts or Award rates which are well below current wages paid under collective agreements.

Gina Rinehart and the multinational mining corporations want to ensure a compliant workforce who are dependant and don’t know their rights, fear joining their respective unions and often lack good English language skills to defend themselves from exploitation.

The EMA aims to increase the levels of profit in two ways, the obvious being by paying a lesser rate but also in saving on recreation and rest periods by not allowing these workers time to go home to see their families at the end of each roster period.

Unions believe bosses and the media have falsely presented a shortage of skilled labour as the excuse to bring in temporary workers but the shortage is really of well-paid unionised jobs

The race card has been used by the multinationals and other employer groups as well as supported by the media monopoly, which aims at dividing the working class.

Unions have a big task ahead to dismiss their current campaign as racist as they fight one of the biggest struggles for survival.

We must be able to pass the message through that our struggles are the same; we must find ways to unite local and guest workers in this struggle against the exploitation by the same employer. We carefully choose our language to ensure our working class message is heard and not distorted to overcome the media campaign and this should be one of the key priorities for the union movement.

The threats of fines and penalties didn’t deter workers and in fact infuriated them so much they decided to march to Rinehart’s office in West Perth to express their anger.  

Next article – Moving towards 100% renewable energy in 10 years

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