Attack on John Setka is unjust and a threat to workplace safety

John Setka speaking at the 20 June rally in Melbourne
Contributed by Joe Montero

The media attack on John Setka, the Victorian secretary of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union is both unjust and part of an ongoing campaign to destroy the union.

In the first place, Setka’s comments at the 20 June rally in Melbourne occurred in the context of the anger over the wilful neglect of safety on the job that is scoring a mounting toll of deaths and serious injuries. No industry is more affected by this than construction.

When they continue with their vendetta, the likes of the Murdoch empire, which is leading it, show a complete absence of concern for the victims. If they did, they would be equally zealous in demanding something be done about this national disgrace. But there is total silence.

Officials of the union and quite a few of the others at the rally personally knew some of those who have died.  Many of the workers there know that they could be the next victim. They are entitled to be angry. Determination to do something about this is totally justified and failure to recognise this, displays an incredible heartlessness.

In taking up the cause and talking tough, John Setka is doing the job he was elected for by his members. He is also speaking on behalf of those facing easily preventable risk in other industries.

The detractors have also shouted out  accusations of thug and bully.  The question is who is the real thug and bully? Setka for standing for those who he represents, or the lynch mob after his public hanging?

Setka is being attacked for promising action against the failure of inspectors who have done nothing. He said ‘Let me give a dire warning to them ABCC inspectors, be careful what you do. You’re out there to destroy our lives’.

He added, ‘We will lobby their neighbourhoods, we will tell them who lives in that house and what he does for a living, or she, and we will go to their local footy club, we will go to their local shopping centre, they will not be able to show their faces anywhere’.

Is this not the same kind of action that the Murdoch stable practices for other members of the Australian community, Setka, the CFMEU and other construction unions?

The difference in this case is that it is a mater of life and death.

Take one example.

A developer called Trio Residences (part of the Vic Investment Management Group) engages a contractor called Element Five or Vcon. Over the part two years there have been 124 Worksafe visits, 23 serious incidents, 23 improvement notices have been issued and there have been 3 prohibition notices. One worker has been killed and another seriously injured.

To date this group of companies has ignored everything and the inspectors operating under the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), have done nothing to enforce safety.

This says it all. And it is typical of what is going on through the industry and in every part of Australia.

John Setka also had a go at Victoria’s Labor government that has opportunistically joined in the vendetta, by refusing to give contracts to companies establishing agreements with construction unions.

Part of the problem is that agreement by employer and union on measures to improve occupational health and safety are not permitted under the ABCC legislation. This is wrong and it leavers no option but to deny stand up against it.

We are all entitled to a safe workplace and have an obligation to stand up against what threatens this.

Scenes from the marches that took place around Australia

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