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Issue #1722      March 9, 2016

Solidarity is infectious

Community Union Defence League launched in SA

A grassroots organisation to support trade unions in South Australia was launched at a very successful function in Adelaide recently. Over a hundred people attended the launch of the Community Union Defence League (CUDL) at the Semaphore Workers Club and the beginnings of a network of pro-union activists was created. A fund to assist unionists such as local CFMEU organiser Jimmy O’Connor was established with donations of over $4,000 on the night.

Vinnie Molina CFMEU WA Organisers and CPA President speaks at the launch.
(Photo: Craig Greer)

The case of Jimmy O’Connor attracted many to the event. He was charged $12,000 in the Federal Court last August for actions arising from his day-to-day responsibilities as an organiser in a tough, dangerous industry. The CFMEU was fined $160,000 arising from the charge brought by Fair work Building and Construction – the re-badged Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). Jimmy spoke passionately about his experience and the need for effective on-the-job organisation. He paid respects to the two workers who have died on the site of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital and pointed out the increased pressure on workers to meet deadlines.

CPA national president Vinnie Molina was MC of the event. Also speaking at the event were the secretary of SA Unions, Joe Szakacs, SA secretary of the CFMEU, Aaron Cartledge, MUA SA organiser Campbell Duignan, CPA general secretary Bob Briton, Greens candidate for Port Adelaide, Matthew Carey, former CFMEU SA secretary Martin O’Malley, CPA(ML) representative Mike Williss, Spirit of Eureka representative Derek Burke, Socialist Alliance and Left Unity member John McGill, peace activist Irene Gale and Semaphore Workers’ Club president Ben Carslake. A united front on the question of defending our trade unions was well and truly on display.

Workers’ Club members volunteered their time and the Port Branch ran a very efficient BBQ. Sally Mitchell led the audience in stirring workers’ songs. Blues band Old Tricks and blues soloist Don Morrison entertained an appreciative crowd.

The Community Union Defence League was the initiative of Adelaide Branches of the CPA. The Party’s Workers Rights’ Campaign arose in response to the escalation of attacks on Australia’s more militant unions with the calling of the prejudicially named Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption and the anti-worker agenda of the federal government’s Productivity Commission. The reactionary recommendations of the latter body include the slashing of penalty rates.

The CPA’s Central Committee urged local organisations to form grassroots trade union solidarity groups in cities where they don’t currently exist. The Port Branch of the Party took actions in the lead-up to the launch of the CUDL that included stalls at the Semaphore shopping strip displaying a “Hands off Penalty Rates banner” and the dropping an un-missable five metre by six metre banner with the slogan “Workers Need Strong Unions Like the CFMEU” from the Jervois Bridge in the Port district and the Morphett Street bridge in the city. There was good support in the form of toots and waves from the many commuters.

Now that the CUDL has been formed, more ambitious plans can be made.

“There is strong support for a community solidarity organisation. What could such an organisation achieve? If we manage to form a large network and engage people, the possibilities open up,” CPA General Secretary told the audience at the launch of the organisation. “We will continue our own high visibility activities and add to them. Beyond that we need to rally support for pickets and trade union protests, such as those that have taken place against the replacement of regular crews on Australian ships with extremely low paid workers from other countries.”

Adelaide CPA members recently sent their large banner in support of the CFMEU to Perth where the local Branch displayed it from a bridge above a busy thoroughfare (see “CPA Campaign for workers’ rights in support of the CFMEU!”). Solidarity is infectious.

Sally Mitchell singing at the launch. (Photo: Craig Greer)

Next article – CPA Campaign for workers’ rights in support of the CFMEU!

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