Blue collar battle lines

Battle lines were drawn in Fremantle this week with hundreds of blue collar unionists vowing to fight for workers’ rights they say are threatened by a Tony Abbott government.

About 400 members of the MUA, AMWU and CFMEU crowded South Fremantle football club for a monthly stop work meeting.

Also in the crowd were Labor’s federal candidate for Hasluck, Adrian Evans, and upper house state Labor MP Kate Doust.

“I’m no Kevin Rudd lover but if Tony Abbott wins this election it will be a sad day for Australian workers,” MUA organiser Doug Heath told the packed meeting. “If the arsehole controls the Senate we are in deep shit. He will set up laws to attack workers’ conditions, he will start attacking unions.

“He will go for the leadership and start demonising and criminalising them.”

CFMEU organiser Michael Buchan says Mr Abbott has signalled his intention to target the MUA.

“And he will,” he says. “We have to get smarter and talk to our members so they get more involved in their union. Complacency is one thing that will divide us.”

Newly appointed MUA WA secretary Chris Cain agreed, criticising workers who did not attend the Tuesday meeting, two weeks out from a possible Coalition victory: “What is wrong with them? Where are they?”

The meeting also brought members together to honour the memories of two offshore workers on the first-year anniversary of their deaths off Victoria last year.

The Herald had been invited to the meeting to attend the memorial service for two offshore workers killed on the job last year.

We were shortly after told to leave. Having walked out of the oval and across Parry Street to the Gerovich statue roundabout, a union member—who had apparently followed us—asked, “who are you?”. “Who are you?” we replied tersely.

“I’m with the union,” he replied before a short exchange involving the word “comrade” and his return to the meeting, apparently satisfied we weren’t a Liberal plant.

Unionists say they will “bombard” booths across Hasluck—WA’s most marginal Liberal-held seat—with how-to-vote cards and material about unions’ push for better workers’ rights.


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