The Global Fight for Workers’ Rights

By Mick Buchan
State Secretary, CFMEU Construction & General WA

Australia isn’t the only country where Governments and the business interests pulling their strings are trying to criminalise the legitimate activities of unions who stand up and fight back.

Here in Australia we have the ABCC, a taxpayer funded Government department, who try and find things to prosecute the CFMEU for on behalf of tax dodging multinational companies.

In the US, there are few unions left who still stand up and fight. But one that does is the International Longshore and Warehouse Union led by Willie Adams.

Willie is a long-time friend of the CFMEU and our sister union the MUA. He was at our combined State Conference in February and spoke with fire about the global fight we’re all in to protect the legitimate right of working people to come together to form unions and protect ourselves and our families from the greed of Governments and employers who want more and more for themselves and less and less for us.

This week the ILWU were handed a fine of US$93.6 million dollars over an industrial dispute. That’s about $140 million in our money. The fine is many, many time what could possibly be justified in the situation and completely at odds with the pittance big businesses pay despite constant breaches of the law, here and in the US.

Once again, it’s a case of one law for them and another for us. Surely there’s a point where the obvious injustice and hypocrisy renders these sorts of decisions against unions invalid.

This fine is designed to bankrupt the ILWU. And the ILWU have been targeted precisely because they are a union that stands up for their members, just like the CFMEU here in Australia.

It’s stupid that we should have to say these things, but here are a few truths that we hold to be self-evident;

  1. Workers have the right to come together to collectively ensure employers provide a safe, fair and dignified workplace.
  2. Workers have the right to form workers’ unions and democratically elect our own leaders.
  3. Workers have the right to decide a fair, viable and sustainable wage for our time, labour, and expertise.
  4. Workers, our unions, and our leaders have the same legal rights as any other citizen and should never be made subject to laws that don’t apply to anyone else. That path leads directly to tyranny.

The current attack on these self-evident truths is fierce, sustained, well-resourced and global. And just as the solution to local attacks is local solidarity, the only solution to global attacks is global solidarity.

As the ILWU motto puts it; “An injury to one is and injury to all”.

CFMEU WA stand with Willie Adams and every single member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. We denounce this fine an abuse of the legal system by those who want greater power to exploit others without consequence. And we assert the right of workers everywhere to stand together and fight corruption, exploitation and greed.

When workers’ rights are under attack, what do we do?

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