We’ve heard a whole lot lately about the evil CFMEU, that devil of a union that puts people before profits and tries its damnedest to keep construction industry slaves safe at work so they can arrive home for dinner breathing and in one piece.
Day after day the totally and utterly maulers of the impartial Murdoch media regale us with sensational tales of union officials swearing on building sites – goodness me Decorous Dora, what’s the world coming to? – and demanding that safety officers leave their comfortable padded chairs in their air-conditioned offices during rainstorms to make sure their soaked and sodden employees can continue to get drenched in the name of productivity in relative safety and not fall 21 flights to their deaths.
It’s just goddamn outrageous what these clowns from the cartel get up to isn’t it Ursula?
No darling, not the fellows from the union – they’re the good guys. Didn’t you read about those poor chaps who died a preventable death at Eagle Farm racecourse a few weeks ago? Or the three innocents slaughtered when an unsafe wall on a construction site a couple of years ago? Or the hundreds of others who’ve lost their lives at work over the past decade?
It’s Murdoch’s maulers I’m talking about. Why don’t they act in accordance with the media ethics that journo’s once held dear and put some balance in their stories? You know luv, give the punters both sides of the story and tell them why the rough-edged chaps from the union are having a red hot go at the bosses?
I tell ya darlin’, the games crooked and the fight’s fixed. And even worse it’s not just Malcolm the Magnificent, keeper at right-arm’s length of Abbott, and his buddy Rampaging Rupert, the Viscount of Viagra, who are throwing king hits at the permit-carrying cloth cap chaps.
Why, have you seen this latest outrageous bloody decision from the Federal Court? No, no, no, it’s not like Murdoch’s maulers reported it, no not at all.
Please, let me explain dear. You see there’s this major building company called Hutchinson, Hutchies to those in the trade, and yes you’re right sweetheart., they are the ones some people claim corruptly dealt with Dave the Dog , but that’s another story to be told at a later stage.
For the moment what you need to know dear is that Hutchies have been around 100 years, are one of Australia’s largest construction companies, employ 1300 workers and a whole bunch of contractors more, and have a HR team that would fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground, provided the hirers, firers and KPI setters stand shoulder to shoulder.
The long and short of it is that this outfit are no novices in the industrial relations department, and have been going toe to toe with union mob since before St Paul stopped playing pickpocket for Satan’s sinners, and began making workplace agreements with the Bolshie’s shortly after Paul copped a lightning bolt to the head and in his confusion began to believe that the wide brown land was built by a bloke who subsequently made every sheila on the globe out of the un-grilled rib of an arsehole named Adam and switched sides to the God Squad.
Well, just a couple of days after that lovely Michelle Payne won The Cup last year the sharpies from Hutchies management struck a bargain with the CFMEU that soon after became an Enterprise Agreement. Now this agreement is legally binds the union, the company and its workforce to an agreed set of terms and conditions that govern their employment. In simple terms it’s a contract, struck fairly and without duress by the parties, and endorsed by a majority vote of the Hutchies workers.
Ho hum I hear you say, but hang on just a minute, because the boss’s bargaining guru’s f*cked up regally and agreed to this provision reproduced below.
Can you spot what’s wrong with it?
Yes, no, maybe?
Well let me tell it to you straight: the idiots from Hutchies had agreed to allow the union to pull all the workers off the job and hold an unlimited number of four hour meetings during each and every shift. All the chaps in the cloth caps had to do was provide the Hutchies bosses with written notification that they intend to hold the meeting before they kick it off – it could be a single second before the whistle blows, there is no timeframe whatsoever specified – and Bob’s everyone’s Uncle.
Except of course Hutchies because all of a sudden they had a bit of a tiff with the union over an unrelated matter and the next thing they knew the crafty coves from the CFMEU started invoking their legal contractual rights and before you knew it there were union meetings being held left, right and centre and if there’s any justice in the world a HR honcho’s head should have been last seen rolling down Queen Street with a senior manager kicking it all the way.
The score was CFMEU 1 – Hutchies NIL, and union officials were seen smiling all over town and the Hutchies bosses were running around in circles like headless chooks and those with hair still left were tearing it out in huge clumps and wondering what the hell they could do.
Resolve their dispute with the union, cut a deal with the union in the traditional manner, and move forward with fairness holding hands and singing Solidarity Forever should have been the simple answer. A contract was in place, it had been signed freely, and if Hutchies had totally and utterly stuffed up well that’s just the way the ball bounces and despite the Tory’s trickle down con job there’s always a winner and a loser in the game they call Capitalism, and in this case it was Hutchies.
That should have been the end of this story, and would have been too, but unfortunately for the average working punter when the Labor Day marchers shout ‘Fair Work, Fair Work, What’s the Score?’, the answer is always that there’s one law for the rich and one for the poor, and that proved to be exactly the case here because the supposedly independent building industry umpire – the dreaded ‘Fair Work’ Building Industry Inspectorate decided that they didn’t like their favorite team – the bosses – copping a hiding, and decided to take decisive action to give their golden haired boys a boost.
So before you could say Dyson Heydon’s a Dinosaur the one-eyed Erics from the inspectorate who do two thirds of bugger all about pinching bad bosses had stripped off their yellow umpire’s shirt, thrown on a Hutchies jersey and abandoning any pretense of impartiality had jumped in boots and all and applied for orders preventing the CFMEU from enforcing their clearly written legal right to hold the union meetings described above.
The fix was in. The fix is always in.
On 29 September the Federal Court rode roughshod over the legally binding contract and issued interim orders (temporary orders until the case can be heard in full) restraining the CFMEU Queensland Branch from holding meetings more than once a week at any given site and compelling the union to provide 48 hours notice to the employer of the meeting time and date. Forget the fact that Hutchies had agreed to something completely different, the Federal Court knows how to deal with these grubby unionists.
It got worse though, a whole lot worse, because the orders not only applied to the Queensland Branch of the union but were extended to apply to all branches of the CFMEU Australia-wide, despite the fact that unchallenged evidence was led that each State branch of the union operated independently and autonomously. That of course wasn’t good enough for the half million dollar a year earners sitting on the judges bench, they know better and declared that these unionists couldn’t be trusted and would run amok across the wide brown land if the unilateral alteration to the terms of the contract was not applied to the CFMEU here, there and everywhere, including presumably Mars.
The matter went back to court last week for review, but sweet bugger all changed, with the judge this time declaring that the meetings the CFMEU had been holding on Hutchies sites were not genuine union meetings and that the new restrictions on the union’s activities would stand until the matter was fully heard in early 2017.
Of course no definition of what was, and what wasn’t, a genuine union meeting was proffered or declared, although it should have been a moot point anyway because there is no delineation in the contract between different types of union meeting, and nor should there be for since when were bosses allowed to determine the validity of a workers meeting when they had locked into an agreement giving the union carte blanche?
The Easter Island Statue – Big Malcolm Fraser – famously opined that life wasn’t meant to be easy, which was easy for a blue-blooded member of the squattocracy to say, but not so easy for working class people to swallow. What the man who mysteriously lost his trousers in a Memphis hotel forget to add though was that if you are a construction worker life isn’t meant to be fair either, and don’t you worry about that.
It’s all water under the bridge now, and the union how has its hands tied until the full hearing next year, ostensibly at least for there is always more than one way to skin a cat, even if the feline hides behind the public servants who appear to be its greatest supporter and pass the burden of bashing the union to you and me, the poor old sucker of a taxpayer.
I guess it’s exactly as the Nobel Prize winner – if that is he accepts the Dynamite Alfie – Uncle Bob was correct: justice is a game. And the workers always lose. But hey, do you reckon if I ask nicely and tell them that I hate unions the Federal Court might vary my credit card contract?
Ha ha ha ha ha.