Unions defend freedom of association as employers resort to blocking tactics on merger

Mining and building industry groups have lodged an appeal against the creation of a super union.

The Fair Work Commission this week approved the amalgamation of the Construction, Forestry Mining and Energy Union, Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia and the Maritime Union of Australia, to create the new CFMMEU.

However, Australian Mines and Minerals Association (AMMA) and Master Builders Australia (MBA) subsequently lodged their appeal with the full bench of the Fair Work Commission and are also seeking a guarantee the merger won't go ahead until their case is heard.

The move by AMMA and MBA are widely seen as a blocking tactic to allow the Turnbull government to test its numbers in the Senate for its so-called Ensuring Integrity Bill that would insert a public-interest test for the merger.

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said it should be up to union members  - not employer groups or the Turnbull Government on their ideological crusade against unions - to decide whether unions should merge.

"Employer groups AMMA and MBA have filed papers in the FWC appealing the decision fixing an amalgamation date of MUA/CFMEU/TCFUA for March 27, 2018,” Crumlin said.

"AMMA and MBA have also sought a stay of the decision which if granted would mean that the amalgamation would not take effect on March 27.

"The MUA will vigorously oppose the appeal and defend the rights of workers seeking to engage in freedom of association. 

"Our members have overwhelmingly supported this amalgamation and it should be up to them to decide whether they merge.”

In a separate interview with the ABC, Crumlin said the merger makes sense.

“This merger means that maritime, construction, forestry, mining and manufacturing workers in the textile area will have an industry union that is able to represent them more effectively,” Crumlin said.

"Bigger is better so long as the members are supporting it and our members have overwhelmingly supported this amalgamation.

"Do you think the shipping companies aren’t merging together with the mining companies who are merging together with the transport companies that are merging together with the rail companies, that are merging together with retailers?

"So big business and multinational capital can avoid tax and responsibility by vertically and horizontally integrating themselves through the supply chain from mining to manufacturing to retail and workers can’t do the same thing?

“This is just the start of it there are going to be bigger and better and stronger unions in this country that will change the rules – rules made by governments to eliminate working rights not to promote them.

"That’s what [the Turnbull Government and employer groups] are objecting to - a strong union, a real union and a union that has total support of workers in that industry.”

CFMEU National Secretary  Michael O’Connor welcomed the decision of the FWC to approve the formation of the new union by the amalgamation of the CFMEU, TCFUA and the MUA.

"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,” O’Connor said.

“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.”

Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia National Secretary Michele O’Neil said the merger represents an important step forward for Australia’s trade union movement.

“The TCFUA has a proud history of fighting for the rights of some of Australia’s lowest paid and most exploited workers,” O’Neil said.

“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.”