Contributed by Ugly
The Victorian branch of the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) has just won the right for its members to fly the Eureka flag on building sites.
Fair Work Commissioner Bernie Riordan has ruled that flags did not breach the government’s building industry code.
This is a significant setback for the federal government and its Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), which have held that the existence of the flag on building sites, amounts to coercion and the denial of the individual right not to be a member of the union, an interpretation that has hotly been disputed.
Commissioner Riordan agrees that it does not convey that union membership is not voluntary. He said, “the display of a Eureka flag over the course of Australia’s history has been associated with a variety of causes and campaigns.
“I am not aware of the CFMMEU having an intellectual property right over its use and meaning.
“According to Wikipedia, the Eureka flag has been used as a symbol by bikie gangs, the right-wing Australian First Party, the Neo Nazi movement and sporting clubs such as Melbourne Victory.
“It was also used extensively in the 1975 federal election campaign following the dismissal of the Whitlam government.”
Dave Noonan, the national secretary of the CFMMEU’s construction division, said that the Eureka flag commemorated rebellion and the struggle for Australian democracy.
‘The ABCC can’t kill it, the Neo Nazis can’t steal it,’ he said. ‘It belongs to Australia and working people,’ he added.
The matter had come up in relation to a case involving the union and building company Watpac, which was ordered to refrain from asking employees to remove the flag from cranes and not take disciplinary action against workers previously asked to remove the flags.
The ABCC’s only response is that employers faced bans in acquiring government contracts, if employees showed the Eureka flag image.