Joe Myles was given a personal $44,000 fine by the by the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). The reason is that he intervened on a health and safety issue on a building site. He’s a union organiser. That’s his job.
Joe had been asked by workers on the site, through a health and safety representative, to come over and help make it a safer workplace.
In the eyes of the Commissioners, this is intimidating an employer. It’s their job and they are paid well to carry it out. This reveal the clear class divide embedded in an authority, deliberately created as an attack dog against construction unions and those working on building sites.
It shows the mindset of a government bent on the eventual destruction of unions. Without them, wages and conditions would soon fall through the floor.
But for the first time, an individual has been targeted and a ruling made that the union is not allowed to pay the fine. It is the highest personal fine ever imposed. This is a shift, which marks a turning of the ABCC towards a strategy relying more on intimidating individuals.
A fine of this size would ruin just about anyone. Joe was given until 6 March to pay, or face going to jail.
A Megaphone appeal to raise the money was launched. People responded quickly, donated their $20, and within days, $47,485 was raised.
This is an important win. Joe has the burden lifted off his shoulders and a blow against an unjust law has been delivered. It shows that if a community can stand together, it cam overcome the obstacles that are put in the way. Now that a precedent has been set, it can be repeated every time the ABCC hands down un unjust fine on an individual.
Unfortunately, this alone will not put an end to the ABCC. It must go. The only way to ensure that this happens, is to maintain the ongoing industrial and political campaign and the support of the wider community.