Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Coalition's Australian Building and Construction Commission mark II: police state over workers!

Vanguard October 2013 p. 5
Max O.

The Abbott lead Coalition Government has boasted that it will re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission within 100 days after their federal election victory. Just before the federal election the Liberal Party established a 'Working Group' to plan Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) mark II once they won government.

The 'Working Group' comprised Liberal politicians Josh Frydenberg, Nola Marina and Jane Prentice with Mr Paul Fletcher as the chair. They were tasked with examining Labor's Fair Work Building and Construction inspectorate (A slightly modified ABCC, which was introduced in July 2012) and so-called practical problems of malfeasance and misconduct by workers in the construction industry.

This Liberal Party 'Working Group' argues that union militancy and a weak regulator were combining to hurt productivity in the construction industry. Just what the capitalist construction corporations wanted to hear.
They assert that the ABCC under the Howard Government achieved: a productivity gain in the construction industry of 10 per cent; an economic increase of $6 billion dollars per year for the construction corporations; a reduction in consumer prices of 1.2 per cent; gross domestic product 1.5 per cent higher; and significant reduction in days lost through industrial action.

Policing workers
Upper most in their minds is to ensure that the ABCC boosts productivity and that 'law and order' is maintained for the benefit of the construction corporations. To achieve this Coalition Government plans to recruit ex-federal police to play a key role in a revived Australian Building and Construction Commission to help root out so-called 'law-breaking unionists, bikies and thugs on building sites'.

This allegation is pure invention and police recruitment for the ABCC is a smokescreen for attacking workers rights in areas of work safety, wages and working hours. In fact it was Grocon, a construction corporation, who enlisted not only the police to undertake military style attacks but also the Hell's Angels to intimidate workers striking in September last yearover OH&S issues.
Grocon employed an ex-night club bouncer Peter Hewitt, whohad  never before worked in the construction industry, to be a health and safety rep. The Australian Construction manager’s son Daniel Van Camp (who was seen associating with members of the Hell's Angels) was also employed to be a health and safety rep on the Melbourne Grocon site. Will they be investigated by the ABCC ex-police recruits? We won't hold our breath, because we know who they are really working for!

Productivity - extracting surplus value from workers
What the construction corporations and the Abbott Government mean by productivity is profitability for the capitalist class. Workers sell their labour-power to capitalists who pay for the socially necessary costs of reproducing their labour power, the so-called 'fair day's pay'. Above the socially necessary cost of reproducing themselves, workers create surplus value which the capitalist battle to keep, control and expand.

This is where the ABCC, Workchoices and Fair Work Australia come in. Their role is to assist capital to discipline workers’ labour-time. Because capitalists buy labour-power in units of labour-time it is essential for capital to measure productivity by how much value they can extract from each of those units. Therefore capitalists endeavour to drive up the rate of output per unit of labour-time.
Capital tries to extract as much surplus value as possible during workers' hours of work: through piece-rates, speed-ups, and bullying; and by compromising on occupational health and safety. Speed-ups are often the cause of worker injury and death, a cost not borne by capitalists. The ABCC was notorious in never penalising construction firms for putting workers into unsafe building sites. Marx described it aptly: "killing is not murder when done for profit".

Businesses never cease to attempt intensifying discipline over labour-time. For example workers are readily stood down if there is a break in production; workers are made to do casual and broken shifts; do unpaid overtime and abolish their work breaks; avoid paying superannuation and penalty rates; workers now are put on call 24/7 through the use of mobiles, computer tablets and home computers. All these measures capital uses to increase its take of surplus value that workers create by extending the number of hours they work.
Marx explained how money-capital enters into the production of commodities, which are then sold to acquire a greater sum of money-capital. The principal feature in the creation of new commodities is that they pass on more value than went into their production. Almost all of that extra value comes from workers' labour. This is what capitalists prize and will do anything to keep, the surplus value they extract from workers, even to the extent of paying below the socially necessary average cost of workers maintaining themselves.

Consequently corporations use the capitalist state apparatus to implement laws to exploit workers (extraction of surplus value), so their profits can achieve the expansion of capital. 

Grocon is taking the lead in championing their right to exploit. They take legal action against unions for damages (the tort laws), when workers take industrial action to protect their industrial rights. The aim is to bully unions into submission or face bankruptcy if they dare defend their members.

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