Saturday, 17 October 2015

So the CFMEU and the MUA

want to join together do they? For Upoverites these are the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Engineering Union and the Maritime Union of Australia. 
I am worried by this. They are already two of the most powerful unions in Australia.  They are already big. They are too big.
If they pull their members out on strike the country grinds to a halt.
It would be fine if they only did this when there was serious danger but the mere threat of going out on strike seems to have people running and ducking for cover. 
Every time there is an inquiry into these unions - and there has been more than one - they seem to survive despite the serious allegations of bribery, corruption, violence, and more made against them. People are simply afraid to speak up.
I once worked in a school where the majority of the children had fathers who worked for what was then the Maritime Workers Union. There had been earlier suggestions that the move to shipping containers was going to cause a great deal of unemployment and, some years down the track, it was interesting to see what was going on. 
I was told there would be poverty - and yes, there was some. I was told there would be unemployment - and yes, there was some of that too. But I also discovered that it was not where I had been told it would be. The children of the maritime workers were talking about going away on holidays in their family caravans. They went out with their fathers in good sized boats at weekends. They had money for school excursions. 
On the other hand there was the son of a widow in my class. They were struggling financially. She was also determined that her child would not  be on the "free" books scheme. He would, she told me, learn to pay for his books like every other child. When we had a school excursion I wondered what would happen.I knew she couldn't afford for him to go with the rest of the class. He told me that himself. He just came up to me quietly after the others had left the classroom and explained. I thought about it overnight and then I said, "Would you be able to go if you could earn the money?"
"Maybe," he said doubtfully.
I sent him home with a note. A note came back. A few phone calls and a visit to an elderly person who genuinely needed some help was made. He worked hard for the money and went on the excursion. I think he got more out of it than any of the other children.  He went on helping and soon had several regular jobs walking the dogs of elderly people. I believe he went on doing it right through high school. 
I would like to know what he thinks of the CFMEU and MUA and they way they wield their power. I don't know where he is or what he is doing now but my guess is that he has done well. He was a "nice" child even then - the sort of child I would call on to do a slightly more complex task. He would think things through. He wasn't brilliant but he worked hard. 
He might not own a boat and a caravan but perhaps he owns his own home? He would have worked for it.
There will be other children in that class I taught who, like their parents, will have rented a house all their lives. They will have wangled their finances to get at least a part pension and all the advantages which go with it. They will complain about not getting enough to live on.
It makes me wonder whether the CFMEU and the MUA really do the best for their members.

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