Sunday, February 24, 2013

The BBQ King and class warfare

Vanguard March 2013
Contributed by a construction worker

(Above: Brisbane construction workers take to the streets in support of Bob Carnegie)

Cooking a BBQ for others and helping out our mates is usually seen as an honourable and worthy aspect to our day to day lives. It is an almost obligatory part of a civilized society to have access to someone who is willing to turn a chop or poke a snag at short notice. Many of these volunteers so consistently put their hand up and do such a good job they are known as a “BBQ King”.

Many of us have a joke about these types of individuals as is the national pastime of taking the mickey out of others, but underlining the jokes is usually a very healthy respect for what they do. They are always first to put their hands up to do the cooking, rain or shine, always around when needed and always prepared to help others at the drop of the hat. Another thing these people are good at is talking and giving good worldly advice. We would classify them as bloody good mates.

But not everyone thinks that way.

The multi-national property and Infrastructure Company, Lend Lease, owners of construction companies, the Abigroup and Baulderstone amongst others, has taken a dislike to Bob Carnegie a Queensland worker and community activist (and perhaps a BBQ King but certainly a well respected community leader).

Bob’s persecution commenced when construction workers on the Lend Lease/Abigroup project, Queensland Children Hospital, went on strike to get an agreement that subcontractors pay EBA entitlements and stop the sham sub-contracting and rip-offs rife throughout the project. Lend Leases/Abigroup took legal action against the union (CFMEU) and obtained an injunction to cease supporting the strike and other ancillary actions. But the protest continued for 9 weeks with the help and support of community members like Bob, until eventually an agreement was reached. The workers returned to the job and all was well until Bob received court documents detailing 54 separate contempt of court charges and a civil case for damages. Why Bob, because he was named in the legal action against the union even though he is not an official of the CFMEU? Bob was recognised by Lend Lease/Abigroup as a community leader and he now faces hundreds of thousands dollars in fines, unlimited damage costs into millions of dollars and/or jail.

Bob’s big crime was that he stuck with the workers for the whole 9 weeks of the community protest. He was prepared to cook the BBQ to ensure protesting workers were fed and he was there to listen and provide a helping hand when the weeks without pay took toll on the workers and their families.

In fact he acted like a bloody good mate would.

Bob’s case has now been heard and he awaits the verdict expected in April. The company withdrew many of the 54 charges prior and during the course of the trial yet the outcome could still result in huge fine, costs and or jail. Even if he wins Bob and his family could be financially ruined due to cost for his own defense.

But for a multi-national it has nothing to do with the money, they know Bob couldn’t pay millions or even tens of thousands yet they continued to pursue him. Even if they lose the case they achieve what they want, the message is loud and clear, “don’t f..k with us or we will destroy you”. The message is aimed not particularly at any individual but the working class and its supporters generally.

It is a deterrent aimed at unions and community activists and is a reflection of the class war raging underneath the “respectability” of a “democracy”.

As the contradictions between capital and labour intensifies so does the class war. Class warriors like Bob Carnegie must be supported and encouraged to continue because the other side has no intentions of walking away peacefully.

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