Employers are preparing to go to war over a potential merger between two of Australia’s largest and most militant workers’ unions.
Maritime Union of Australia members on Tuesday voted to merge with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, with 87% of voters approving the move.
The sides will look to get the merger approved by the Fair Work Commission in January, before the Coalition can enact a proposed bill to subject union mergers to a public interest test.
Employer groups have threatened to take their fight as far as the High Court, if the Fair Work Commission gives the merger its stamp of approval.
But MUA boss Paddy Crumlin said the creation of a new ‘super union’ would help workers exercise their democratic decision making, and democratic control of their union.
“Our members have spoken: they want a strong, independent and progressive union,” Crumlin said. “This vote sets a new course for the amalgamated Union.”
This vote sends a clear message to the Turnbull government to respect not undermine the democratic decisions of union members in the running of their unions,” CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor said.
“It’s a total repudiation of suggestions by the government that this was not in those members’ interests. Those members have spoken unequivocally and with overwhelming determination on where their interests reside.”
Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia members voted to join the amalgamation at the same event, with 97% of voters approving of a merger.
“This vote is clear and unequivocal and the Federal Government should now butt out of trying to overturn the democratic decision of our members about the future of our union,” TCFUA national secretary Michele O’Neil said.
Several key employer representatives have slammed the proposed merger.
Australian Mines and Metals Association director of workplace relations Amanda Mansini was quoted in The Age saying the merger would threaten the stability of Australia’s supply chains, from pit to port.
“The two unions have made it very clear the intention of the merger is to ramp up national industrial and economic vandalism,” Mansini was quoted as saying. “We need investment, we need jobs and we need projects. A power-heavy, lawless union is only going to detract from this.
“This is why Australia needs the public interest test,” she reportedly added. “There is contentious about a public interest test to incentivise unions to comply with the law if they want to become more powerful, especially where the usual incentive of civil penalties is on working effectively.”