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Issue #1755      November 2, 2016

Stop the workplace carnage

Touch one, touch all!

Statement by the Central Committee, Communist Party of Australia

The war on workers has turned even more deadly recently. The needless deaths of five workers in three weeks on construction sites across Australia has put the human cost of the government and employers’ policies into tragic perspective. Well organised union jobs are safe jobs; non-union jobs can be deadly jobs.

Trade unions, the very force that can protect workers’ health and safety, are being prevented from doing so. The increase in workplace fatalities and serious injuries is a direct result of government and employer attempts to exclude trade unions from construction sites and criminalise legitimate trade union activity.

Under the Australian Building and Construction Commission and Labor’s successor Fair Work Building and Construction unions are fined millions and workers thousands of dollars for doing nothing more than protecting the safety and lives of workers.

Speed-ups, long hours, lack of training, the use of unskilled temporary visa workers, cost-cutting including on maintenance and inspection, the exposure of workers to contaminants and risks to the public arising from the manic drive for profit have worsened as a result of the current anti-union push.

The Communist Party of Australia expresses its condolences to the families and friends of the workers who didn’t come home in recent weeks. It also recognises the trauma suffered by fellow workers of these victims of anti-worker policies and work practices.

The Party stands with the unions resisting the imposition of a profit-first, not safety-first, culture in the construction industry and other hazardous industries. It supports their struggles and seeks to rally members of the broader community to demand an end to the persecution of workers as they strive to defend their safety, conditions, incomes and jobs. Even before the most recent events, at least one worker per fortnight died on Australian building sites. The figures for other dangerous industries are similarly shocking and intolerable.

The CPA welcomes initiatives aimed at driving back the attacks of the government and employers. The CFMEU has called for workers to wear black armbands on site on November 3.

The CPA supports the call for the criminal charge of industrial manslaughter to be established. A large rally in Brisbane the weekend before last supported the long-overdue change to the law. The public has been shocked by current developments and is sympathetic to demands for change to stop the senseless loss of life.

The federal government has blood on its hands. The long witch-hunt against the CFMEU has hampered the right of workers and their trade unions to control safety on jobs across the country. The Cole Royal Commission of 2003, the Howard government’s establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission in 2005, the failure of the Rudd/Gillard government to completely scrap this construction industry Gestapo, the provocatively-named Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption and now the Turnbull government’s push to totally revive an ABCC – on steroids – have led to the present outrageous situation.

For all the employer and government claims of thuggery and corruption in the industry, few charges have arisen and none have stood up. The real scandals in the construction industry, including abysmal workplace safety standards, are not being addressed.

The public is witnessing the shameful spectacle of anti-union, Family First Senator and failed home building company owner, Bob Day, clinging to his seat in the Senate. This is despite the fact he has admitted he should step down. “Marriage plebiscite legislation, ABCC and our other work too important to Family First to have a vacant seat for even one day in November,” he tweeted recently.

Black lung, a scourge in the mining industry of a by-gone era, has re-emerged as a result of “flexible” practices imposed by project owners and managers and the failure of governments to ensure adequate and independent monitoring and enforcement of regulations.

The recent deaths of four people at the Dreamworld theme park on the Gold Coast took place despite warnings from unions and members of the public.

Governments and industry groups won’t fix the problems. It is their single-minded drive for maximum corporate profit that has put workers in this intolerable situation. Unions must be free to take any action necessary to achieve safe workplaces and overcome deadly practices. The community must support them.

The right to stop work, to inspect workplaces and books and the right of entry should be restored.

Political forces committed to the interests of the working class, foremost of which is the Communist Party of Australia, must be strengthened to reverse the dangerous current direction of industrial relations in the country. The Communist Party joins others in calling for a campaign for safe workplaces and the scrapping of legislation for the ABCC and the removal of its remnants in the form of the so-called Fair Work Building and Construction.

It is the right of all workers to return home safely.

Next article – Editorial – Slavery: Genesis of capitalism

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