FWC approves formation of super-union with port power

By: Rob McKay

CFMEU, MUA and TCFUA to be known as CFMMEU and will ‘hit the ground running’

FWC approves formation of super-union with port power
The VICT protest.


Australia now has a new Fair Work Commission-sanctioned union — the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU).

In a move opposed by industry and employer organisations and subject to concerns about the militancy of its constituent parts, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) were given the green light to come together yesterday.

After the move was flagged two years ago, cooperation between the MUA and the CFMEU was given an early outing in December at the series of Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) actions, following serious Australian Logistics Council (ALC) concern over the concentration of union power in November.

ALC MD Michael Kilgariff reiterates its position.

"It is enormously concerning that our supply chains will now be subject to the whims of a powerful mega-union, comprised of elements that have time and again shown blatant disregard for the law," Kilgariff says

"As events at Webb Dock last year demonstrated, the MUA and CFMEU have the capacity to cause significant disruption to our supply chains.

"Allowing these two unions to combine their resources and their appetites for militancy is not in the interests of freight logistics operators, consumers or the wider community."

The union pickets were criticised heavily by transport organisations for impacting on container haulage in Melbourne.

And FWC deputy president Val Gostencnik, in approving the amalgamation, did mention the pending proceedings against the CFMEU and MUA in his decision, saying: "There is no question that there are a significant number of proceedings pending against two of the existing organisations, namely the CFMEU and the MUA.

"The vast preponderance of the pending proceedings are applications seeking the imposition of a pecuniary penalty or penalties on these organisations for contraventions of various Commonwealth laws, or appeals relating to such proceedings."

He also mentions "proceeding pending against the MUA in which it is sought that the MUA be punished for breaching or disobeying an order of the Supreme Court of Victoria", but the unions argued that these were regarded as civil proceedings under the Registered Organisations Act, and therefore no bar.

RO Act amalgamation provisions are seen as mainly concerned with accountability to union member.

CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor pledges to waste no time.

"We will hit the ground running immediately, with the first meeting of our senior national officials this Friday, March 9, in Melbourne," O’Connor says.

"Big Business has too much power, we have record levels of inequality in our community, and working families are finding it hard to make ends meet. We will be fighting every day to restore the fair go.

"What you can expect from us is a clear focus on what we have to do to turn our country around.

"We are absolutely committed to a change of government, to changing the rules to restore balance and fairness into our communities, and to growing our movement.

"It’s time for big business to stop riding on the coattails of everyday working Australians, time the banks stopped ripping people off, and time for every business in this country to pay tax. Nearly 700 big corporations pay no tax, which is a national scandal."

The international president of the new union, Paddy Crumlin, calls the decision a proper recognition of trade union rights being directed towards the will of the membership.

"Today is an important part of the renewal of our union and of our movement," Crumlin says.

"Wherever there is a need to defend the interests of Australian workers, we will be there with them in their workplaces and communities.

"The failure of government to protect those workers from international and national tax avoidance, deregulation driven by corporate self-interest and elitism, and a continuous ideological attack on workers’ rights by many multinational corporations and service providers, means we will also be there globally with other working men and women similarly affected and mobilised."

TCFUA national secretary Michele O’Neil welcoms the decision, saying: "The TCFUA has a proud history of fighting for the rights of some of Australia’s lowest paid and most exploited workers.  

"The combined strength of the CFMEU, MUA and TCFUA in our new union will write a new chapter in Australia’s union movement. Ordinary workers now have a powerful new force for change on their side.

"Big business and the Federal Government should now get out of the way so we can get on with winning better pay, conditions, rights, and secure jobs for our members."


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