The military style attacks on construction workers and their union, the CFMEU, in Melbourne in early September, has shown the true nature of Australian capitalist state as an apparatus for the suppression of the the working class and the people.
The big developers, property owners and peak big business outfits colluded and mobilised all branches of their state apparatus to attack construction workers and their unions. The bourgeois media, the legal apparatus (employers’ lawyers and the courts), parliament and the police were wheeled out in a synchronised attack.
In one voice the media widely and loudly spread outright lies viciously demonising construction workers, their unions and leaders. Construction workers and unions were linked to so-called “criminal underground” activities of motor cycle clubs.
Liberal and Labor governments joined the anti-worker and anti-union chorus. Labor less aggressively, mealy-mouthing condemnation of Grocon’s provocative actions and the violence of the police against the workers.
The anti-worker and anti-union laws of WorkChoices/FairWork and the ABCC were created in parliament by both Liberal and Labor governments. The courts breathed life into these laws and the police implemented them against the workers, sending strong messages of threats and intimidation to all unions and working people gearing up for struggle.
More than 500 police with guns and capsicum spray, nearly a hundred riot police, armed to the teeth in riot gear, more than dozen riot-equipped mounted police and a large dog squad, set upon peacefully protesting construction workers. The construction workers and their union, the CFMEU, were simply demanding the right to elect their union OH&S delegates, and the right to wear union signage on the job.
Construction and mining are dangerous industries with a high number of industrial accidents, injuries and fatalities. Improvement to health and safety has been one of the outstanding achievements by construction and mining unions and constantly has to be defended. Given the slightest chance, the bosses will take short cuts in health and safety issues.
The big business attacks on building workers and their unions in Melbourne target the entire working class in Australia. They have to be seen as part of a bigger national picture. The ruling class is making preparations to stop outbreaks of working class struggle.
The people are under growing pressures from the rising cost of living. Utilities, transport, housing, rents, child care, education, health are increasing. Almost 50% of workers have no job security, and youth unemployment is growing. Cuts to social and welfare services are throwing more on the brink of poverty. There’s frustration with parliament, parliamentary parties and politicians not looking after the interests of ordinary people, but instead looking after big corporations.
Workers are growing frustrated with industrial laws of WorkChoices/FairWork, Right of Entry, the ABCC and its state versions, restrictions on union representation and laws that paralyse workers from taking industrial action for decent wages and conditions. There’s impatience with limitations on effectiveness of unions, failure to dismantle WorkChoices and FairWork, and the costly swamp of legal maneouverings.
These growing frustrations in the working class are leading more frequently to “illegal” actions in defiance of FairWork and the courts orders. Nurses, teachers, mining and warehouse workers are just some who have recently defied FairWork and court orders. The ruling class is aware of the growing discontent and makes preparations to crack down on wider outbreaks of struggle.
There’s only one course of action workers and unions need to take in preparation for future attacks. The real strength lies in uniting, educating, organising and mobilising the whole of the working class and its allies. It is the only way to hold back these attacks and win some breathing space before the bigger battles ahead.