Spying On Workmates An All-Time Low Act and Un-Australian

The hiring of notorious anti-union figure Bruce Townsend to spy on union members, union delegates and contractors at Victoria’s $5 billion-plus desalination plant at Wonthaggi was an all-time low act, MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said today.

“It is not surprising to see the central character in this latest scandal is the very same person who played a key supporting role in the waterfront dispute in 1998,” Mr Crumlin said.

Townsend led the convoy that set up the NFF’s bogus stevedore on Webb Dock and recruited 200 professional scabs to back up the Dubai mercenaries in the Patrick lock-out.

The Howard government complained that wharfies were too highly paid, but it was revealed in the High Court that Townsend received $4,700 a week for each of his men who got a job.

Crumlin ridiculed Townsend’s claim that working on the waterfront was easy, since there is no evidence that he ever did any.

“Back in 1998, the mercenaries were easy to identify – they were wearing balaclavas and using attack dogs.

“This time around it would not have been so easy for ordinary workers to identify the company stooges, as they were operating undercover.

“It is hardly surprising that Townsend is now stooping to this new all-time low in this latest example of industrial espionage.

“This sort of behaviour is just quite plainly un-Australian,” Mr Crumlin said.

“It is extremely disappointing that a major company would stoop to something this low, and it goes to show us all that there are employers out there who will go to any lengths and simply don’t care if what they are doing is un-ethical.

“This is nothing short of a gross invasion of workers’ privacy and a breach of trust of the highest order.”

Mr Crumlin said the revelations showed an appalling lack of judgment by the company building the desalination plant - Thiess.

“No worker should be placed in this position of having a spy among their ranks,” he said.

“These incidents of spies being sent in to a workplace by bosses should set off massive alarms bells around the country for workers in any industry.”