Unionists march on ALP conference

Hundreds of unionists have marched on the ALP Conference to urge the government to do more to protect jobs and secure workers’ rights.

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In particular, members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) called on the government to scrap the Australian Building Construction Commission (ABCC) because of the body’s coercive powers.

“The construction industry has got some problems; they’re not addressed by silly industrial relations laws left over from John Howard’s era,” CFMEU National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan says.

Head of the ACTU, Sharan Burrow, addressed the unionists during an event at the Convention Centre in Darling Harbour, the same venue where the ALP conference is being held.

Ms Burrow praised the union movement for bringing about an end to the Howard Government’s Work Choices laws, but said there was still more work to do.

“We know workers right now are facing the worse crisis ever seen,” she says.

Ms Burrow also called for an end to the ABCC, calling the body “offensive”.

The calls come as an Access Economics report commissioned by the CFMEU warns the housing industry may lose up to 80,000 jobs in the next three years.

“We are saying to the employers to the investors in the industry and to the government that it’s time to sit around the table and look at the real issues that confront the construction industry,” Mr Noonan says.

The report has put Kevin Rudd on the defensive, with the Prime Minister casting doubt over whether the job losses in the industry would be so high.

“I stand to be a corrected, that’s why I’m going to read the report carefully, but have I been presented with numbers to that effect myself? Not that I can recall,” he told radio 3AW this morning.