Updated : Mar 09, 2020 in Articles

Unfair Dismissal of West Gate Bridge Workers

Ok, let’s go back to March of last year
2009 – 32 workers lost their jobs AT THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE West gate Bridge extensions.
They were sacked because the subcontractor who employed them could or would not pay at
the rate negotiated by their unions.
This was because the head contractor John Holland refused to pay the subcontractors
enough to make up the wages of the building workers.
The men were understandably upset. Even a judge of the federal court said that many
of the workers were so shocked that they were not in a fit state to drive home that day.
One of the bosses at Civil Pacific, Mr Cassells addressed the workers and said they could
apply for employment with the head contractor. The workers and their unions tried this and
failed. The workers swore at the bosses who had taken
away their livelihoods. In retaliation the bosses got their security guards to photograph
the men. So they abused the security guard — using language little different to that
used by Kevin Rudd when Julia Gillard told him that she was going to take his job. The
bosses called the ABCC — set up under the Howard government. An officer of the ABCC,
Andrew Williams, then charged some of
the union organisers who had set up a picket at the subbie and John Holland’s premises. The workers blocked
the entry but said they would allow ambulances and emergency vehicles in. At no stage did the ABCC allege that the union
organisers or any of the workers hid their identity in any way. At no stage did the ABCC
allege in court that there were car chases or physical violence used — they alleged
plenty of threats but no violence against persons. Now Julia Gillard is an experiences industrial
lawyer — she knows about precision in presenting facts. She knows what you can get away with
and what you can’t in a court — she knows how to ‘guild the lily’.
A couple of months after the West gate workers lost their jobs Gillard spoke at the ACTU
congress before a thousand delegates, I was there, we were all wearing yellow T shirts
like this one saying Abolish the ABCC. One wag at the conference yelled out as she strolled
into the conference hall ‘Where’s your T shirt Julia?’ Now she was not going to
be wearing a T shirt that said Abolish the ABCC – far from it.
“Like me, I am sure you were appalled to read of dangerous car chases across Melbourne
City involving carloads of balaclava wearing people, criminal damage to vehicles resulting
in arrests, threats of physical violence and intimidation of individuals, including damage
to a private residence. The last time I read of balaclavas in an industrial dispute they
were being worn by security thugs at the Melbourne waterfront when the MUA fought its history
making battle against Patricks and the Liberal Party. Balaclavas, violence and intimidation
must be unreservedly condemned as wrong by every unionist, every ALP member, every decent
Australian. And the Rudd Labor Government will do everything necessary to ensure that
we do not see this appalling conduct again. This is another part of our commitment to
fairness and decency at work.” Yet these accusations were never put to the
federal court & never mentioned in the judgement of Jessup in the West gate case that Gillard
alluded to in her speech to the ACTU congress and where the judge fined the unions a record
$1.3M. Delegates yelled out where’s the charges where’s the proof — Gillard’s
statement was widely published in the press and so was the reaction of the ACTU delegates
who yelled out ‘One law for all’. Julia Gillard is a clever person, a clever
lawyer – she knows how to present a brief – she knows how to guild the lily. The unions have paid out nearly $3.5M. So
far they’ve kept their members out of jail. But their members pockets are not bottomless
– they will run out of money – maybe Ark will avoid jail – but what about the
West gate men – Mick Powell, Tony Mavromatis and Gareth Stephenson – what about Kane
Pearson up here in Queensland? An organiser with the BLF. Who will run out of money first?
The workers or Gillard’s ABCC. So what choices do we have? No to Abbott,
no to Gillard. A few put their faith in the greens. But what about the ordinary workers?
We only have our unions which means the workers beside us.
Our unions had better get organised or come the next recession the Gillard’s and the
Abbott’s will take us to the cleaners – some may even end up in jail. Keep the faith

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