Support the QCH workers!

Submitted by martin on 3 September, 2012 - 7:46

650 workers at the Queensland Children's Hospital construction site have been on a community protest, stopping work at the site, since 6 August.

The workers' main spokesperson is Bob Carnegie [below], a former Builders Labourers Federation [BLF] organiser invited in by the workers after courts handed down injunctions banning all union officials from the site.

Click here to hear Bob explain the dispute.
New interview with Bob (24 September) here
New interview with Bob (11 September) here.

Please send messages of support to

In Brisbane: If your organisation or yourself could organise the purchase of Woolies or Coles/Coles Express vouchers. it would be of immense help. They can be handed to Bob Carnegie or Virginia Clarke from 05:30 at the protest line at South Brisbane or posted to PO Box 738, Stones Corner Q 4120.

Workers' Liberty leaflet put out from QCH mass meeting 24 September

QCH workers need your support

QCH is a test case

650 workers at the Queensland Children's Hospital site in South Brisbane have been in dispute and on a community protest since 6 August.
Construction disputes do not usually go on this long. The bosses face heavy financial penalties. The workers, in an insecure industry, lack savings to cover long periods without wages. Usually disputes are settled, one way or another, in a few days.
Abigroup, the main contractor at QCH, is losing $300,000 a day; but has decided to make this a test case.

The workers are fighting for a principle

The workers want a union Enterprise Bargaining Agreement with a clause ensuring all employees of subcontractors get the rate for the job.
The workers want an industry where workers get the respect due to the people who build the structures all the rest of us live in and work in. They want an industry where workers are paid the rate for the job and get decent conditions, and where valuable projects like the QCH are completed on time, to a good standard, and safely.
Abigroup wants an industry where workers scramble to compete with each other for insecure, ill-organised work at whatever rate they can get.

Abigroup uses unfair law

Abigroup is owned by the giant Lend Lease corporation, which reported $500 million profits for the year to 30 June 2012. Its chief executive Steve McCann was paid $7.33 million for the 2012 financial year, a 66% pay rise. Lend Lease has recently had to sideline four top Abigroup executives for financial misreporting.
Lend Lease could afford to settle the dispute just by lopping a bit off Steve McCann's pay.
Instead it has pushed Fair Work Australia to order the workers back to work and ban all strikes at the site. It has got court orders to ban union officials from the site, and also to ban community protest organiser Bob Carnegie, not a union official. Bob is defying the ban. Now court orders are threatened against other workers.

Workers are not slaves or serfs

Law which denies the right to withdraw labour, or the right to show solidarity with other workers, or the right to peaceful protest, is unjust law.
Even other capitalist states would recognise the workers' rights. In France the constitution establishes the right to strike as an individual right for every worker. France has, by most measures, the world's highest labour productivity.
It takes defiance to replace unjust laws by just laws.

QCH workers need support

The QCH workers have had support from workers and labour activists across Australia and across the world - England, Turkey, Iran, France. On 24 Septembers workers and students in London are protesting at the Lend Lease office there to show solidarity.
Now the QCH workers need more than messages. They need action by other workers who, by taking action, can put pressure on Lend Lease and on the employing class.
The QCH workers' fight is the fight of every worker facing contracting-out, unfair wages, or insecure conditions - which means, every worker.

What to do?

Join the community protest at the Graham Street entrance to the site any weekday morning from 5.30. Please send donations in the form Coles and Woolworths $50 gift cards which are redeemable for groceries or fuel. Please post to PO Box 738, Stones Corner 4120. Invite workers from the community protest to visit your workplace or union meeting to explain the dispute and discuss what you can do. Contact

Martin Thomas
QCH community protest supporter
Alliance for Workers’ Liberty

Leaflet put out by the QCH workers

Why is there a community protest at the Queensland Children's Hospital site?

Workers are demanding a union enterprise bargaining agreement with the main contractor, Abigroup, and a clause to ensure that all workers employed by subcontractors on the site are paid the rate for the job. Almost all the workers on the site are employed by subcontractors rather than Abigroup, and rates for similar jobs with different subcontractors can vary by up to $10 an hour.

How did the dispute start?

It started when a gyprocking subcontractor failed, leaving the workers employed by it in the lurch. Trade unionists had been complaining on this point for months. The November 2011 "Construction Journal", produced by the CFMEU union's construction division, reported: "Contractors are cutting each other's throats to win [work at] the Abigroup site at the Queensland Children's Hospital... They are using tricks to reduce their price... Some of these plasterboard companies are taking it one step further, using multiple subsidiary companies under their banner in order to divide up the workers' entitlements..."

Why are the workers' demands important?

Winning decent pay and conditions on construction sites is difficult, because jobs come and go. The same battle has to be fought again on every new job.

When union organisation is weak or broken in construction, then even on big sites workers are employed by lots of different subcontractors, or by labour-hire companies, with no security if the company fails. Similar work is paid different wages. Workers are taken on as "self-employed" so that the subcontractors can avoid their responsibilities for sick pay, superannuation, etc. Fly-by-night subcontractors go for quick profits and take no responsibility for the finished job.

The workers want the new hospital to be built to good standards and on time. They also want to hold the line for decent negotiated standards in the construction industry.

How has Abigroup responded?

Abigroup is owned by the giant Lend Lease corporation, which reported $500 million profits for the year to 30 June 2012. Its chief executive Steve McCann was paid $7.33 million for the 2012 financial year, a 66% pay rise. It has also recently had to sideline four top executives for financial misreporting.

The dispute started on 6 August. Abigroup says it is losing $300,000 a day. Until 4 September Abigroup refused to talk or try to find an agreement to enable work to resume. It looks like Abigroup underestimated the workers and thought the dispute would quickly collapse. Now Abigroup has at least started talking. The workers want talks and a speedy agreement.

Aren't the workers breaking the law?

Injunctions have been served against officials of the CFMEU, the BLF, the ETU, and the Plumbers' Union to stay away from the site. The workers are therefore continuing their dispute as a community protest. Injunctions have been threatened against protest organisers. The great majority of the workers have no legal proceedings against them, and are not likely to have. The dispute will continue, whatever the legal proceedings, until Abigroup settles.

Australian law is exceptionally reluctant to recognise workers' rights to withdraw their labour. By contrast, France's constitution, for example, has the right to strike written into it as an individual right for every worker. France has, by most measures, the world's highest labour productivity.

Workers are not slaves or serfs. The right to withdraw your labour when conditions become unacceptable is a basic right.

Aren't the workers being violent?

No. The community protest is peaceful. Strike-breakers are turned away by persuasion, not by violence.

How can we find out more, or support the workers?

The community protest is held every weekday morning from 5.30am at the Graham Street entrance to the site. The workers welcome support and visitors.

Because of the legal proceedings, the unions are not organising financial appeals for the workers. However, the workers have had no wages for over a month. They and their families need to eat. Please visit the community protest and find out how you can make donations.

The workers welcome messages of support which show other workers are with them in in the long battle for a world where the working class controls economic life, and where workers enjoy the right to a secure livelihood, worthwhile work, decent conditions, and good social provision - rather than labouring for the profit of a wealthy few. Send messages to


Submitted by martin on Wed, 05/09/2012 - 08:26

Messages of support from trade union organisations and trade-unionists in other countries will be very valuable. Please send them to Bob at:

Messages will be read out at the strikers' regular mass meetings, Friday and Monday mornings.

It is not possible to send messages through the strikers' unions, BLF and CFMEU, because union officials are legally barred from going near the site.

Yesterday, 4 September, for the first time, Abigroup met workers' representatives for talks, so there are definite signs that they're beginning to crack.

Submitted by AWL on Fri, 07/09/2012 - 11:39

The Alliance for Workers' Liberty in Britain supports your dispute and is urging our members, sympathisers, and friends in the British labour movement to support you.

In Britain we have seen the results when employers in construction are allowed to break union organisation: wages pushed down, conditions worsened, standards flouted, safety compromised.

In recent time two special group of workers in the industry who had retained some union strength have fought back.

In 2009 engineering construction workers fought against the arbitrary sacking of well-organised workers to be replaced by non-union workers imported as a group from elsewhere in the European Union.

In 2011 construction electricians fought against a move by major employers to break the union agreement, the only remaining industry-wide union agreement in construction for any trade. By a combination of rank and file organisation, unofficial pickets and demonstrations, some official union action, and broad labour movement support, they won.

Those victories create a chance for other groups of workers in construction here to regain confidence.

A victory for your dispute will be important for workers across the whole industry, internationally as well as in Australia.

It will be a step forward in the long battle for a world where the working class controls economic life, and where workers enjoy the right to a secure livelihood, to worthwhile work under decent conditions, and to good social provision of hospitals and other facilities - rather than labouring for the profit of a wealthy few.

Submitted by martin on Sun, 09/09/2012 - 07:33

Bob Carnegie told us the latest on the dispute as of Sunday 9 September.

The line is hardening among the workers. They're becoming more determined. They're dug in and they're radicalising.

More workers are stepping into leadership roles.

On Friday there were about 500 workers on the community protest. Abigroup, the main contractor, tried to bring in scabs.

Bob Carnegie spoke to the scabs and explained that the unions have been around for a hundred years, and will be around for another hundred, whereas labour-hire companies come and go. Did they want to spend the rest of their years in the industry marked out as scabs? In the end, all of them but one left.

There were five busloads of police there, but they stayed in the buses.

There's been a return to work in the dispute with Grocon at the Myer site in Melbourne. For the QCH workers that means that the unions in Victoria will be able to concentrate on giving them assistance.

Monday 10 September is a rostered day off across the construction industry in Queensland. There'll be skeleton protest on Monday, then on Tuesday the community protest will be back in large numbers and workers will have the mass meeting they usually have on Mondays.

Workers' representatives had three days of meetings with Abigroup bosses last week. It was the first time they've agreed to talk since the dispute started in 6 August, though the talks ended without result.

Campbell Newman [the new right-wing state premier] spoke to Dave Hanna [an official of the BLF, one of the unions whose members are in the dispute, though the unions have been served with injunctions to stay away from the site]. Newman called for the dispute to end. Dave Hanna responded that the workers need a negotiated agreement for that to happen.

Injunctions have been served against the ETU and the Plumbers' Union. Bob Carnegie has been served with court papers three times in the last four days, but not an injunction yet.

Leaders of the protest have been out getting support, collecting food vouchers so that the workers and their families can eat. There's been a good response from maritime workers, locomotive drivers, and members of United Voice [the former Liquor, Hospital, and Miscellaneous Union] and the Rail, Tram, and Bus Union.

Abigroup have tried everything, but each time they've failed to break the workers' resolve. They say they are losing $300,000 a day. Maybe the time is coming when they have had enough and they will sit down and talk sense.

Submitted by martin on Tue, 11/09/2012 - 08:13

The following message was first published on the UID-DER (Association of International Workers’ Solidarity) website. It relates to the QCH construction strike.

Dear class brothers/sisters striking in Queensland Children’s Hospital site in Australia,

As workers who are members of the Association of International Workers’ Solidarity in Turkey we salute your struggle. As your class brothers/sisters in Turkey we know well that construction workers work under hard conditions, that there are many difficulties for workers to get organized in this industry, that the system of sub-contracting is becoming widespread across the world your as well as in your and our country. Therefore your struggle to sign contract with the main company and get equal pay for equal work is especially important and significant. We believe wholeheartedly that you will succeed in this righteous struggle you have been waging with determination for more than a month.

Our association follows the working-class struggles across the world and tries to get the voice of workers heard by all class brothers/sisters and develop solidarity among workers across the world. Your fight is our fight. Your success will also be the success of all workers around the world.

Long live the unity of struggle of workers!

Long live international workers’ solidarity!

Association of International Workers’ Solidarity (UID-DER)

8 September 2012

Submitted by martin on Wed, 12/09/2012 - 08:54

Following the sidelining of four executives over financial misreporting (see above), a new executive has been put in charge of Abigroup, and he has sent a deputy to Brisbane on a brief to sort out the dispute. As I write, talks with union officials are in progress.

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 12/09/2012 - 14:06

John McDonnell MP, Labour Representation Committee Chair
Maria Exall, Communication Workers' Union and TUC General Council
Peter Bunting, Irish Congress of Trade Unions Assistant General Secretary
Pete Firmin, CWU and joint LRC Secretary
Mary Hanson, CWU
Owen Jones, Unite members, author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class
Ken Frankling, UCATT
Esther Townsend, Unison/University of East London Students' Union
Will Stone, Morning Star
James Bevan, Unite
Richard Howard, Unite
Marcel Winter, Unite
Veronica Killen, UCU
Christina Paine, UCU
John Holden, UCU
Charles Pottins, Unite
R Bawnal, Fabian Society
Alex Knox
J Edmund Smith
LP Moore
S Franklin, Unison
Max Shanly, GMB and LRC Youth
Tony Dines, Unite
Ian Ilett, Bectu
Austin Harney, PCS
Angela Coulter
Nick Hider, Unite
Anne Barry, East Brighton Labour Party
Mick Barry, East Brighton Labour Party

Submitted by AWL on Fri, 14/09/2012 - 10:59

Submitted by AWL on Sun, 16/09/2012 - 13:20

To the striking QCH construction workers in Brisbane

Dear class brothers and sisters,

For the past few decades 'globalisation' has been touted as the solution to many of the world's economic problems. It was supposed to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, lower prices, give consumers more choice and so on. To cover up this empty rhetoric, the capitalist class has pursued an ideological campaign that has tried to justify a range of neoliberal reforms that have resulted in the erosion and lowering of workers' rights, living standards and working conditions.

The events of the past few years, however, have totally exposed the true aim of these policies. Working people throughout the world have seen how the interests of capital have been protected and those of workers and the poor attacked. Everywhere the 'remedy' for the inherent problems of the system has been the same: more privatisation, out sourcing, sub-contracting, short-term contracts, casualisation and so on.

So far the main legacy of 'globalisation' has been a race to the bottom for health and safety standards, real wages, working conditions and social provisions. Today workers in Australia, Turkey, Britain, France or Iran face many more similar problems than in the 1970s. That is why struggles like yours can pave the way for workers across the world to turn the legacy of 'globalisation' into one of a common struggle against the common class enemy. In this way a victory in any country can provide valuable lessons for struggles of workers anywhere.

The Iranian Revolutionary Marxists' Tendency (IRMT) salutes your struggle which has not only taken on the class enemy but also class traitors in the union bureaucracy. We recognise that organising workers' in the construction industry involves many difficulties, including sub-contracting. We believe, however, that the bold way your strike has developed shows that victory in this dispute can be achieved. We hope that soon you will be able to sign contracts with the main company building the Queensland Children's Hospital and receive equal pay for equal work.

Unity, struggle, victory!

Long live international workers' solidarity!

Iranian Revolutionary Marxists' Tendency
15 September 2012

Submitted by martin on Sun, 16/09/2012 - 15:47

Click here for video of the public sector workers' strike and demonstration in Brisbane on 12 September, which was about job cuts and changes in conditions imposed by the new state government.

Submitted by martin on Mon, 17/09/2012 - 14:26

Workers in dispute at the Queensland Children's Hospital construction site in Brisbane, Australia, are looking to industrial action at other sites and workplaces to add the final extra squeeze to the pressure on the main contractor, Abigroup, and force it to settle.

Delegations from the site will be going out to talk with workers elsewhere and make the case for solidarity.

In the dispute's seventh week, the workers are standing firm despite receiving no strike pay and not even being able to collect donations through a bank account. All donations have to be in cash or in supermarket vouchers.

Unions have been served with court orders to keep away from the site, and the workers have been continuing the dispute as a community protest with the help of Bob Carnegie, a former Builders Labourers Federation organiser called in by the workers after union officials withdrew.

Further pressure will be applied on 21 September, when Bob Carnegie faces a court hearing to order him to keep away from the site. Bob has discussed with the QCH workers and states clearly: "When injustice becomes the law, defiance becomes our duty".

There is huge pressure on Abigroup, too. It is losing $300,000 a day. Abigroup bosses are stubborn, but they are calculators of profits and losses, not people willing to defy the odds for a principle as Bob Carnegie and the QCH workers are.

The workers' demand is for a union enterprise bargaining agreement to cover the site, with a clause ensuring that workers employed by different subcontractors are all paid the rate for the job.

After weeks of obstinate refusal, Abigroup started negotiating on 4 September. It is still negotiating. QCH workers want support for the extra push to get Abigroup, and its parent company Lend Lease, to concede.

Please send messages of support to

Submitted by AWL on Mon, 17/09/2012 - 17:40

"The National Committee of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts sends its support to the striking QCH workers.
"When the students’ movement in the UK fights against cuts and fees in education, we know that our strongest support comes from trade unions and the labour movement. Like us, you are for a world where the places where people work and study are controlled democratically, not by the inhuman logic of profit. Like you, we want decent, safe, secure jobs for all, where equal work is rewarded with equal pay and workers are not divided and exploited through the subcontracting system.
"Like us, you know slander by the bosses’ press and violence and victimisation from the police and the courts. In the UK and internationally, workers’ struggles inspire the student movement, and every victory in struggles like the QCH dispute makes our work easier. When the students move, we know that the workers’ movement is with us. So we are with you."

Submitted by AWL on Thu, 20/09/2012 - 13:19

Join the protest in support of the strikers at the London offices of Lend Lease, the global corporation that owns the main contractor at QCH, Abigroup.

3.30pm, Monday 24 September
Lend Lease, 20 Triton Street, Regent's Place, London NW1 3BF (Warren Street tube)

Facebook event

Submitted by AWL on Mon, 24/09/2012 - 09:15

Submitted by AWL on Tue, 25/09/2012 - 12:44

Submitted by AWL on Sat, 29/09/2012 - 19:56

Siteworker, the bulletin of the construction workers' rank-and-file committee which led the victorious 2011/2012 dispute against de-skilling and pay-cuts, and is currently leading the fight against blacklisting and anti-union victimisation on Crossrail construction sites, emailed this message of solidarity to the QCH strikers:

"The rank and file construction workers in UK send you solidarity greetings. Good luck in your dispute. Workers of the world unite! Solidarity, Siteworker."

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