Australian constructions workers have sent a clear message ahead of a vote by the Senate to extend the coercive powers of the Fair Work Building and Construction inspectorate.
A delegation of unionists today presented more than 8500 letters from construction workers urging Senators to knock back the extension.
Officials from the Electrical Trades Union presented the letters to the office of Labor Senator Gavin Marshall in Melbourne this afternoon.
The letters, signed by construction workers, protested the violation of their right to silence under the laws.
The laws state that workers in the construction industry can be compelled to give evidence to Fair Work Building and Construction investigators.
The letters read: “These coercive powers mean that I am treated differently under the law to workers in any industry outside of construction, even though they might be doing the same job.
“These powers effectively force me to give evidence in investigations against my colleagues and myself or face severe penalties.
“I’m all for just laws and equality in our society, which is why I don’t see why I any my colleagues in the construction industry should be singled out to be the subject of heavy handed laws.”
Workers who do not co-operate with interrogations face potential prison sentences.
ETU assistant national secretary David Mier said that the draconian powers should never have been enacted in the first place and must be allowed to expire.
“These anti-worker provisions subject construction workers to extraordinary and frightening questioning by Fair Work Building and Construction inspectors, and they’ve got to go,” Mr Mier said.
“The government wouldn’t dream of enacting something like this on nurses, lawyers, doctors, police or public servants, yet they seem to feel they can go after ordinary blue-collar workers with impunity.
“Enough is enough. We want every senator to think carefully about what kind of society they
want to build before they vote on this act.”
Senator Marshall welcomed the letters, and condemned the coercive powers.
“I want to thank the many thousands of union members who signed the petition,” Senator Marshall said.
“They are rightly worried about the use coercive powers that apply only to construction workers.
“This legislation discriminates against construction workers, potentially forcing them to front a kangaroo court.
“This is another example of the Abbott Government continuing to trample on the rights of working people.”
Electrical Trades Union: Lachlan Williams – 0447 682 027 [email protected] Senator Gavin Marshall: Liam Coglin – 0439 618 076
For photos of the presentation go to: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/71ifn7299uis520/ AACimWgjC6CZuhDUZShZJs2Xa?dl=0