Facing up to our challenges


It has been an important week in Sydney, with our Central Council meeting to discuss the issues and make the decisions that set our course for the future.

Central Council is our Division’s highest decision-making body, making sure that officials and rank and file members elected by Districts have input into all of our decisions and understand all the challenges we face. To be fair, we face quite a few.

In particular, you would all be aware that our Union has been attracting a lot of negative publicity lately, largely due to issues surrounding the leadership of the Victorian Branch of the Construction and General Division.

It is certainly a distraction and cause for concern, especially with the prospect of the Ensuring Integrity Bill hanging over the movement.

We have been especially alarmed at reports that the Victorian Construction and General branch has engaged in poaching members from the Manufacturing Division. Council heard from Manufacturing Division Assistant Secretary Leo Skourdoumbis, who reported that in addition to the Victorian Construction Branch recruiting a Manufacturing organiser with the express instructions of poaching Manufacturing members, the Division had received a number of resignations from members on Construction Division letterhead.

Council felt strongly that we should take a strong stand over an issue that affects the rights and autonomy of Divisions with our amalgamated Union and unanimously supported this motion:

“After hearing the report to Central Council, this meeting RESOLVES to ENDORSE the actions of the Central Executive in supporting the CFMMEU Manufacturing Division against the unprincipled actions of the Victorian Construction and General (C&G) Branch regarding the historical membership and coverage of their Division.

The Mining & Energy Division DOES NOT SUPPORT the poaching of Members and we DO NOT SUPPORT signing up Members or potential members of other Divisions where established custom and practice has settled potential competing coverage rights issues.

This meeting of Central Council AFFIRMS that the Mining & Energy Division supports the Divisional structure of the CFMMEU as the best way to represent Members in our diverse industries. We RESPECT the rights of Divisions to deal with matters that affect their Branches, Officials and Members. We CONDEMN what we see as a clear breach of the Union’s Rules and Divisional autonomy.

We CALL ON the Branches of the C&G Division to RECTIFY the missteps taken by the Victorian C&G Branch and URGE all C&G Branches to refrain from this approach.
This meeting of Central Council REMINDS all Divisions, Branches and Members that our amalgamated Union has a proud history of working together. We stood, even before we amalgamated in some cases, together:

  • To defend Workers’ Rights;
  • On picket lines and at protests
  • To improve workplace safety and for industrial manslaughter laws;
  • Against terrible IR laws, poor legislative reforms and ordinary Free Trade Agreements;
  • Collectively, to push back against the Hayden Trade Union Royal Commission.

Together, we are a strong, militant, well-resourced Union, that stands up for our Members, makes a difference in our communities and fights for progressive values.

This meeting of Central Council is also EXTREMELY CONCERNED that our Union cannot function effectively, unless all Divisions respect our shared Rules, the legacy of our founding brothers and sisters (from whichever Division or walk of life they came) and of those that have come since, and we CALL FOR frank, open and honest discussion to overcome our current challenges, because working people need a STRONG and UNITED CFMMEU.

AND for the avoidance of doubt, this meeting of Central Council SUPPORTS WITHOUT RESERVATION the Manufacturing Division and any measures they take in order to enforce the Union’s Rules and Divisional autonomy.”

Councillors heard from ACTU Secretary Sally McManus about the challenges facing the broader union movement following the disappointing re-election of the anti-worker Morrison Government.

The ACTU is working hard to prevent the Ensuring Integrity Bill being passed through the Senate, as it represents a significant threat to unions and elected officials, including volunteers like our rank and file Central Councillors and Board of Management members.

Moving forward, the ACTU’s major focus will be investing in growth of the union movement, a focus we strongly support.

We had a good discussion about busting the myths around the coal mining and coal power industries. It’s important that we redouble our efforts to expose the falsehoods and half-truths around our industries – like that coal mining is a small industry that could easily be replaced or that we need to shut down our export industry to address climate change.

We commemorated 20 years since the 1999 Oakdale dispute, watching the short film ‘6.3 million reasons to belong’ that tells the story of our members who lost their jobs and their entitlements when their employer went bust.

With the support of their families, community and of course their Union – these coal miners took their fight to Canberra and won justice, with major rallies and a general strike along the way. The Oakdale dispute was important in establishing the principle that workers shouldn’t lose their entitlements when companies go bust, ultimately leading to today’s Fair Entitlement Guarantee scheme.

Council is a long few days of talking and listening. We appreciate the contribution of all Councillors and we couldn’t do it without the support of Union staff and lots of lollies – jaffas are a favourite. Please get in touch if you have any questions about Council or any of the issues raised here.


Back to issue: September 2019