Australia’s industrial relations commission has green-lit the merger of two of Australia’s largest and most militant unions, despite employers warning the merger will create a super union “too big” to manage.
The proposed merger of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), along with the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia, was approved by the Fair Work Commission on March 6.
The merger is set to go ahead on March 27.
The unions will join to form the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, which will have over 140,000 members, more than the Australian Workers’ Union’s membership of 100,000, and approaching the 200,000-strong SDA union, which represents retail and warehouse workers.
“What you can expect from us is a clear focus on what we have to do to turn our country around,” CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor said. “We will be fighting every day to restore the fair go.”
Employers were not pleased with the FWC ruling.
Master Builders Australia chief executive Denita Wawn said “the creation of a militant ‘super-union’ is a backwards step that will have far reaching consequences for the construction industry and the community”.
“No government – Labor or Coalition – would allow a corporate merger which resulted in the formation of an entity with the capacity to shut down multiple supply chains and effectively hold the economy to ransom,” Wawn said. “But this is exactly what this decision will create.”
Australian Mines and Metals Association principal workplace relations consultant Peter Cooke in January warned the Fair Work Commission that a merged union would be able to take co-ordinated action across supply chains servicing many of Australia’s largest and most important resource projects.
“Each of the CFMEU and MUA regularly engage in unlawful, confrontational, and aggressive industrial tactics,” Cooke asserted. “The CFMEU and MUA clearly intend to use the proposed amalgamation to significantly strengthen the co-ordinated action, including industrial action, they are able to take against employers.”
Cooke’s calculations suggested the merger will create a union with roughly $310 million in assets, and annual revenue of $147 million.
“This is a great day for our union,” MUA boss Paddy Crumlin said.
“The employers have persistently tried to block the merger, together with the Turnbull Government. The only basis for this opposition is to further attack the rights of maritime, construction, forestry and manufacturing workers in this country. It is nothing more than a response driven by their elitism and the fact that their ideological agenda is threatened by the genuine interests of our members.”