Union fight hits sites

DWINDLING union member-ships and a push for power is behind an inter-union squabble that has flared up again in Perth.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union assistant secretary Joe McDonald forced workers on the Woodman Point water treatment plant to stop work, claiming the site was unsafe.

He reportedly told workers they would have great difficulty finding work after this job if they did not leave the site that day.

WorkSafe inspectors later checked the site and found no problems. In the 12 months the site has been active, there has been just one lost time injury.

Ironically, most workers on the site are working under an agreement brokered by the Australian Workers Union with principal contractor Clough Engineering.

The AWU represents workers in civil construction, forestry and mining industries. It also covers workers in some manufacturing, agricultural and offshore oil and gas fields.

The CFMEU is an amalgam-ation of five unions including the Builders' and Labourers' Federation.

The BLF has been banned in all Australian states but WA.

AWU secretary Tim Daly said union memberships had been falling for a number of years, particularly in the mining industry due to the take up of Workplace Agreements.

"There is no question membership is behind the CFMEU's push," Mr Daly said.

"They have always said they will strive to hold their membership level or try to increase it.

"They've tried to move into the civil construction and manufacturing areas.

"We'll be voicing our disapproval of the CFMEU's actions at the next Labour Council meeting."

The AWU-CFMEU stoush has been going nationally for some time. A Victorian judge recently upheld the dismissal of an AWU-member from a job because the CFMEU members there went on strike protesting the worker's employment.

Mr McDonald said the CFMEU was having no problems keeping its member-ships.

"The problem is there's not been much work in the building industry," he said.

Mr McDonald said the AWU was "a bosses union with no backbone".

"It's used by the bosses to keep the CFMEU off sites," he said.

Mr Daly said his union was "not quite mates" with the CFMEU.

"We have a difference in philosophy. We prefer to have a good relationship with the bosses on a site," Mr Daly said.

"Workers around town are getting pretty sick of the way the CFMEU operates.

"The blokes on site lost $200 in wages and bonuses for the week thanks to the CFMEU."

Chamber of Commerce and Industry director operations Brendan McCarthy said workers and employers were always the casualties of inter-union rivalry.

"It's about the power of the union, not the good of the worker," Mr McCarthy said.

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