Thursday, August 13, 2015

Jimmy O'Connor: Construction workers stand by union organiser

Nick G.

More than 200 Adelaide construction workers defied the rogue regulator, the Fair Work Building and Construction (FWBC) Inspectorate by walking off the job on Thursday August 13.

They were supporting CFMEU official Jimmy O’Connor who had to appear in the Federal Court for sentencing submissions relating to a contempt of court charge for which he had been found guilty.

In serving the interests of the members of his union, O’Connor has had to stand tall in the face of legislation designed to crush construction unions.

Industrial legislation generally has stripped workers of most of the bargaining strength they once enjoyed, but the special laws relating to the construction industry are something else again.

O’Connor was barred by the Federal Court on March 25, 2014 from entering the New Royal Adelaide Hospital (NRAH) site unless he was “lawfully exercising his rights” which severely restricted his access and the business he was entitled to discuss with members.  This order originated in action Jimmy took to defend members at another site.

In the meantime, a builder from interstate who was working on the NRAH site was found to have employed a whole lot of s457 workers despite having given the CFMEU an earlier assurance that he would employ appropriately skilled locals.

On 13 May 2014 O’Connor exercised his rights to enter the NRAH site to hold discussions with CFMEU members, in the course of which he confronted the rogue subcontractor about the broken promise to employ local workers.  He demanded that an unemployed member, Jason Clarke, who had the required skill set, be employed as per the previous undertaking.

The FWBC alleged that this constituted an “unlawful demand” and launched proceedings against him in the Federal Court.

O’Connor, who every decent worker will laud to the skies for doing his job and representing his members, was found guilty.

If this is justice, then it is the class “justice” of the capitalists whose control of the institutions of the state permit them to persecute and prosecute union leaders who are merely doing ordinary everyday union work.

The hundreds of workers who came off jobs to support Jimmy could themselves face action by the FWBC.  Company logos on work gear were covered over to protect their employers and sub-contractors who can themselves be prosecuted by the FWBC for not informing on workers who take industrial action.

A guard of honour was formed the cheer Jimmy on as he made his way to the Federal court, pausing with his family in front of a Spirit of Eureka banner displaying the great oath of 1854: “We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other to defend our rights and liberties”.

The Federal Court has fined Jimmy O'Connor $12,000 plus the FWBC's "reasonable costs" which exceeded $100,000.

All of the FWBC's costs are entirely "unreasonable": it has persecuted a bloke for trying to get a rogue builder to stick to its promises to employ Australian workers.

We say "Smash the FWBC"!

We need more Jimmy O'Connors who just do what needs to be done - no grandstanding, no attention-seeking, just head high and doing what's right for the workers.

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