Union Pride, ABCC Shame

On 15 February 2016, Bobby Hetherington was tragically killed after falling twenty metres down a lift well.

He died in the arms of his shop steward and in the company of CFMEU organiser Theo Theodorou. As with all deaths on site, everyone was deeply affected by the tragedy. Some days afterward, and in a very honourable and generous gesture, management sent Theo a letter thanking him for his assistance and efforts: 

“It has been an incredibly difficult time… the CFMEU have provided unequivocal support to all the companies and personnel on the project. Your effort to focus on not only workers’ welfare but that of the subcontract companies and also management is very much appreciated. You have shown throughout this time a high level of leadership and emotional support for all involved in the project which I personally will 
never forget.” 

The day following the tragedy, ABCC inspectors arrived at the site. 

They didn’t ask about the wellbeing of management or staff. They didn’t show any concern for Bobby’s family or provide any form of support to anyone on site. All they wanted to know was if the CFMEU organiser had given 24 hours notice to go on site? What was the union doing on site? Did the official have a permit? 

The ABCC is a political police force that has been constructed to do two things: firstly their day-to-day job is attempting to prevent CFMEU official from doing their jobs. Secondly, through the legal system, they gather evidence to convict and charge construction unions and officials with substantial fines in an attempt to bleed us into bankruptcy. 

The job of construction industry union officials is to protect the lives of construction workers and the community, while ensuring the workers get paid properly and work in 
reasonable conditions. 

Successive Liberal Governments have passed numerous laws that effectively make organising illegal. 

How is it possible for a union official to do their job in an industry as dangerous as construction if they’re required to give 24 hours notice? 

When the Government writes laws that make union organising illegal, then for unions to do their jobs they have to break the law. 

We currently operate under a set of bad laws that are deliberately structured to stop us from doing our job. 

On the ground, ABCC inspectors police a set of laws that put workers’ lives at risk. They use surveillance, intimidation, lies and corporate collusion in a campaign to deny workers the industrial rights that should be taken for granted in this day and age. At a political level, they assist the Liberal Party in their concerted and ongoing campaign to destroy the union movement. 

But they go much further than that. ABCC inspectors have frequently visited the homes of construction workers and the homes of their relatives. Not only have they personally threatened workers with fines and jail terms at their doorstep, they level the same 
threats at relatives. 

The work of ABCC inspectors is shameful. That their blood-soaked pay slips are funded by the tax payer is disgraceful. 

I stand by my belief that these people should be ashamed of their work and themselves. 

In contrast, I look at the work of our officials, like Theo, and our delegates on jobs across the state and I’m proud to call myself CFMEU. 

John Setka