Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to document key elements of union strategy at Sydney (Lidcombe) branch of Australia's Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) in an attempt to document and critique its branch level strategy in the year immediately after the removal of the Howard‐Costello Government. Design/methodology/approach – A case study approach is used in analysing data obtained from internal CFMEU documents and correspondence; interviews with the New South Wales State Secretary of the CFMEU Andrew Ferguson, union organisers, one former organiser who worked for a number of years at Western Sydney but is now with a white‐collar union in the education sector, and construction workers; CFMEU official publications; news media stories and a series of building site visits. The authors use a theory framework of Roman Catholic social teaching to frame the discussions and analyze the case study findings. Findings – In focus groups with construction workers, the authors find one challenging external constraint for the CFMEU: reaching out to and meeting effectively the needs of younger workers especially those from families hostile to unionism. However, younger workers seem to hold a mix of individualistic and collectivist philosophies. The final case shows the CFMEU organiser Tulloch to be adaptable and flexible in the heat of industrial disputation. Finally, the fact that building workers brought the asbestos issue to CFMEU's attention in the final case study shows union willingness to pursue issues not initiated by the union. Originality/value – The paper documents the fact that the CFMEU has the ability and potential to rebuild its influence on building sites in Sydney and win further favourable outcomes for exploited and vulnerable workers within its sphere of influence. Through the theoretical framework, the authors point that as it does so it will assist in bringing to fruition the Roman Catholic social teaching that presents strong trade unions as a valid form of collective voice for workers and a way for collective and individual labour to retain in practice the dignity that God has already clothed them with.
International Journal of Social Economics – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jun 8, 2010
Keywords: Trade unions; Construction industry; Religion; Marxist economics; Australia
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