The MUA has joined the CFMEU and other unions to march through Australia’s capital cities to protest against the Abbott/Turnbull Government’s raft of anti-worker policies.
The national day of action reflected growing anger among workers at recent Government decisions including the re-introduction of the ABCC, implementation of the Building Code and support for cuts to weekend penalty rates for hospitality and retail workers.
The ABCC will result in increased number of workers on temporary work visas, at the expense of Australian workers, as well as slashing the number of apprentices, women and Indigenous Australians whom builders and unions can agree to have on Federal Government funded projects.
When the ABCC was last operating, the CFMEU reports that fatalities on construction sites almost doubled.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin told the Melbourne rally the Turnbull Government’s war on workers and local jobs needed to be fought so that wages and conditions could be protected.
“We’re going to make it hot and thirsty work for Malcolm Turnbull and all his supporters in the Federal Parliament, aren’t we?” Crumlin told the rally.
“See this is a war on workers – it’s not just a war on unions but a war on workers and their families, it’s a war on workers who want to return home safe to their families at nigh, it’s a war against workers who want to be home on a Saturday and a Sunday and if they can’t, they want to be properly remunerated for it.
"It’s a war against working men and women, when they want the best possible representation they can get on the job they want their delegates to represent them, they want to find their voice against an employer who couldn’t give a flying whatsitsname about what they think, it’s about working men and women in Australia that want to live an Australian life, that want to have respect, that want to have a say.
Crumlin said it was all part of a concerted effort by enemies of the labour movement to kill off workers’ rights.
"It’s no accident that they’re going after hospitality and retail workers at one end and and at the other end they’re going after the toughest unions in the country - every Australian worker is going to get skewered in between unless we stand up,” he said.
"It wasn’t them that gave us our conditions, it wasn’t them who won occupational health and safety laws, it wasn’t them that gave us penalty rates or superannuation, sick leave, public housing, public medical care or public education – it was the working men and women of Australia."
Watch Paddy speaking at the rally here
Victorian CFMEU secretary John Setka said his union had a responsibility to stand up for the interests of members.
"If they think they're going to get an easy run and we're not going to defy them, well they're in for a big surprise because there are lives at risk here," Setka said.
"We're not slaves. If people choose to withdraw their labour and protest at unjust laws that are aimed at desecrating workers' rights, well then so be it."
Setka highlighted Grocon's $250,000 fine for a wall collapse at one of the company’s Melbourne sites that killed three pedestrians in 2013.
"When we protest against Grocon, we go in front of these Supreme Court judges and Federal Court judges, they fine us millions of dollars because we're trying to stop people being killed.
"Is that justice? That's our justice system. And when it doesn’t work, you defy it.
"We don't deliberately set out to break the law – we're not law breakers, we're law abiding citizens - we all pay taxes but we've got rights too."
ETU Victorian branch secretary Troy Gray told the rally that the overall union campaign against the Turnbull Government would be biggest since the Work Choices protests that helped defeat the Howard government in 2007.
Gray said that workers attending today's rally – which lasted about two hours – would be docked at last four hours' pay and could possibly be fined.
"So you've got two choices for the rest of the day,” he said.
"You can go back to work and work the afternoon for nothing. That’s option one or option two, you come to the pub with me."
Incoming ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said that many workers pay and conditions are being squeezed.
"It's not right that what were once stable, reliable jobs have been casualised, offshored and contracted out,” McManus said.
"It's not right that employers can use labour hire to undercut wages and use sneaky corporate restructures to rob us of entitlements.
"And it’s not right that wage theft is rampant.
"The balance of power in this country has shifted and it’s moved too far and too fast. . . the rules that are meant to protect us have simply not kept up."
"They've pushed us too far and Australian are at breaking point but I can tell you this. . . no matter how they push, we will not break.
"The only people who can rewrite the rules in this country is us, the mighty trade union movement of Australia."
CFMEU construction division national secretary Dave Noonan and ACTU President Ged Kearney, addressed the Sydney rally.
MUA Deputy National Secretary Will Tracey, WA Branch Secretary Chris Cain and SA Branch Secretary Jamie Newlyn all attended the Adelaide rally with no rally in Perth due to this weekend’s state election.