Contributed by Adam Carlton
The garbage coming out in some media reports over the move by the Fair work commission to accuse the CFMMEU and some of its officials in Queensland, of “encouraging or engaging in abuse conduct and coercion,” deserves to be called out for misinterpreting the truth.
Queensland district president Stephen Smyth, district vice president Chris Brodsky, Broadmeadow Mine Lodge assistant secretary Brodie Bunker, divisional branch assistant secretary Jade Ingham, and delegate Blake Hynes, are to be taken to the Federal Court and charged with infringing the Fair Work Act.
CFMMEU Queensland district president Stephen Smyth
It does not take a genius to work out that this is part of an ongoing campaign to malign and therefore delegitimize a union that is seen as a thorn in the side by the government and its big business backers.
This case involves a long running dispute between 200 workers and mining giant Glencore, which runs the Oaky North Mine at Middlemount in the Bowen Basin. There were a series of pickets and lockouts that begun March 2017. Six months later, an agreement was worked out and the mine’s operation went back to normal.
Management had brought in contractors to replace existing workers. With their livelihoods on the line, some of them are said to have held placards that called the contractors scabs, a term often used for someone who takes another’s work. This is what the officials are being charged over.
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker, expressing how you feel to those contracted to take your job interferes with their right of association.
Parker expressed this one-sided view when saying, “The Fair Work Ombudsman is prepared to take legal action to uphold the provisions of the Fair Work Act that protect freedom of association by ensuring that employees are free to participate, or not participate, in industrial activity”.
In a situation like this anger is natural. Expressing it in words is not unusual. And there was no physical violence. Containing the situation, when your job is being pulled out from under you, should be praised not condemned. This is what is being called or engaging in abuse conduct and coercion.
Photo by Campbell Gellie: One of the offending signs
But what happened has been pulled out of context and exaggerated by the officers of Fair Work Australia and the usual media outlets eager for the blood of the union.
Glencore is hell bent on lowering wages and pushing down working conditions bin its operations and what went on at the Oaky North Mine was part of this. The workers supported by their union fought back. This is the real reason why they are being hunted.
Glencore’s business model has for a long time been among the worst when it comes to its relationship with its workforce. The company born in Switzerland, but based in London, benefited enormously from its use of cheap black labour in Apartheid South Africa.
Photo by Chris Brodsky: On the Picket at Oaky North
It has been brought to court time and time again over mistreatment of workers across many countries, for gross violations of safety standards, large scale bribery of politicians, officials, and others, and environmental destruction. The list goes on and on. Glencore has been accused of a string of murders.
Australia has experienced echoes of this. But this is a side that is never investigated. Efforts to casualise the Australian workforce, fit into the same pattern, and this is a complete and sometimes violent disregard, for the wellbeing of those it touches.
It is Glencore’s practices that should be investigated.
That this is not the case goes to show, yet again, that the Fair Work Commission is a political tool set to deliver blows against the workers of this country, through its continuing attack on the unions, the only organisations that protect their jobs, wages, and conditions.
The union faces fines of up to $60,000 for each breech, and officials up to $12,600. Glencore can do whatever it likes. This is unfair.