Support the WA construction workers! Defend our right to strike!

One hundred and seven construction workers on the Mandurah to Perth rail line are facing fines of up to $22,000 each, simply for taking industrial action last February.

Their industrial action was to get their union delegate, Peter Ballard, his job back. Ballard was sacked for daring to insist that previously agreed health and safety conditions were enforced. Eighty-two of the 107 face additional fines of $6600 each for violating an Australian Building and Construction Commission ban on industrial action on the rail line.

This is more proof that John Howard and his government are hell bent on eradicating workers' rights, and destroying trade unions' ability to defend and extend those rights.

These charges, laid on June 5, follow months of harassment and intimidation of workers involved in the dispute, including interrogations by the ABCC, which under Howard's new laws, are as secret as anti-terrorism trials. The remaining 296 workers who stopped work in February still face the prospect of being charged.

Since its formation last year, the ABCC has been targeting workers and unions who have taken industrial action over occupational health and safety concerns, in particular, including life-threatening workplace issues.

The Socialist Alliance stands 100% in solidarity with the WA construction workers and their strike action, and with the CFMEU's fight to defend its members and defeat the government's anti-union laws. The only means working people have to protect ourselves against corporations' constant drive for greater profits is to stand together

and take collective action in our own defence. The right to strike is our ultimate defence against ever-lower wages, longer working hours, and more deaths and injuries on the job.

Howard and his corporate mates are trying to abolish the right to strike altogether, passing laws that impose huge fines and jail terms on workers and unions who take any sort of industrial action, no matter what the reason. They aim to intimidate union members, bankrupt and split unions, and destroy all workplace collectivity. They must be stopped before it is too late.

Bad laws were meant to be broken. If the Howard government gets away with this assault on the WA construction workers, no worker in Australia will be secure. And if the trade union movement as a whole does not fight it, including with industrial action when necessary, no union will survive.

The Socialist Alliance calls on all those in the community who support working people's fundamental right to decent wages and working conditions to speak out against this unprecedented assault on workers' democratic rights, and to take action in solidarity with any worker and trade union, in any state or territory, that comes under attack.

July 7, 2006

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