In 2008 when CFMEU member Ark Tribe pointed out safety issues on a construction site in Adelaide, the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) demanded he appear at a secret interrogation.
When Ark couldn’t be bullied into talking about the union meeting called to demand greater safety, he was charged by the ABCC and dragged through the courts.
Through the stress and heartache of 14 court appearances over 18 months, hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and the threat of six months imprisonment, Ark stayed strong, and we as a movement stood proudly beside him. When Ark was acquitted of the charges in 2010, we celebrated — the Commission’s attempt to bust union activity had failed and we said, "Never again." The ALP went on to abolish the ABCC.
But if elected, Tony Abbott has promised the Coalition will return the ABCC to the height of its powers, and make it harder to be represented at work.
Watch and share Ark’s compelling story and find out why we need to fight against the return of the ABCC and the Coalition’s union-busting policies:
The ABCC, established under Howard-era industrial relations laws, had the power to coerce construction workers into secret interviews without legal representation of their choice. These workers did not have the right to remain silent in the interview, and were not allowed to discuss proceedings outside the hearing — powers that exceeded even those of ASIO.
Its sole purpose was to attack workers and unions while ignoring violations of safety and non-payment of wages by employers. The mere existence of a body with such power acted as a tool to prevent workers from calling for better safety and conditions, fearful they’d lose their jobs or worse, face jail time.
We can never forget what Ark went through. Follow the link to watch his story, then sign-up to volunteer this election campaign and make sure it never happens again:
To a standing ovation at the Victorian Liberal Party State Council in Melbourne this year, Tony Abbott announced he would reinstate the ABCC:
"We will re-establish the ABCC and finish the job … The law must be supreme, no one is above the law."1
This is a frightening prospect — Abbott’s promise to return these extreme powers to the ABCC is just the tip of the iceberg. He has plans to expand its reach to maritime workers as well and will stop at nothing to make it harder for all Australians to be represented at work. A Coalition Government will introduce stricter reporting rules and higher penalties for unions, and establish an attack dog body to enforce these changes — making it as hard as possible for unions.
As we get closer to an election we need our family and friends and workmates to understand what an Abbott Government will do to industrial relations in Australia. We can fight this. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.
Yours in solidarity,
The Australian Unions Team
P.S. Restarting the ABCC is just the first step — Abbott will bring back WorkChoices laws to make it harder for unions to protect workers’ rights, will allow bosses to accuse union representatives of “bullying” and not require bosses to first go to an independent regulator as well as making it harder to stop bosses who bully. Click here to get the facts.
1 "Tony Abbott vows to reinstate ABCC to rein in construction unions", The Australian, May 25, 2013