Bosses use union members as collateral - as is allowed to under current laws.
A dozen CEPU Tasmania plumbers returned to work at the Royal Hobart Hospital project at the end of February thanks to solidarity and good-old union organising.
CEPU members and their representatives fired straight up to defend the members who were sacked as part of a dispute between a Mainland contractor, AMS Hydraulics, and the principle builder John Holland.
State Secretary Mick Anderson says that the job was made all the harder by having two sets of rules for bosses and workers.
“These local workers were absolutely filthy when they found out they were sacked by phone on a Friday afternoon only to have a handful of FIFO workers from the north island were kept on the next week,” the branch secretary said.
“Our members, around 35 of them initially, were being used as collateral in the dispute between bosses, which is entirely lawful under current laws.
“Grubby bosses can use their workers as pawns in a contractual dispute and sack them as leverage to slow a job, and somehow this is lawful behaviour?
“But if the workers walked off the job in a dispute without notice, they would face massive fines and jail time for not ratting on their workmates to the ABCC.
“This is exactly why we need to change the rules and make things for fairer for workers, and that will start with changing the government.”
After the union hit at the dispute with a barrage of organising, the members have since returned to at the Royal redevelopment, a result Anderson says was pulled off with the support of the CFMEU.
“Unlike their former boss AMS, who lost all their contracts here, we were able to use our relationships with our union comrades on the hospital build to make our members would not remain victims of this grubby game,” Anderson said.
“It’s a complete disgrace that we can’t say the same for the Hodgman Liberal Government and their people in project management.
“True to form, the Liberals said nothing and did nothing for these workers, who are all locals, just as they've done nothing at the site after dozens of health and safety issues and asbestos exposures, and even worse, denied problems.
“The members and organiser Chris Clark really did themselves credit in this dispute, to overcome a stacked deck and get all those who wanted to, back on site.”