Unionists rallied outside the Federal Court in Perth on 7 November, where 76 construction workers faced charges for attending a rally in February 2013. The allegations against them were brought by Fair Work Building and Construction (FWBC). The workers are each threatened with a $10,200 fine.

Members of the CFMEU, MUA, AMWU and ETU made up most of the crowd of 300, which was filmed by Fair Work building industry inspectors.

Tim Lyons, assistant secretary of the ACTU, told the protest that the 76 had been unfairly targeted by the government. “There can be no doubt that the singling out of 76 individuals from a crowd of 5000, a year after the event, who by handy coincidence are CFMEU members, is an intentional act of intimidation against building workers exercising their civil rights.”

AMWU state president Tony Hall called the charges “a disgrace”. He said that AMWU members were protesting because the prosecutions are part of a broader attack on workers. “It’s something we’ve all got to stand up to as Australians; otherwise we’ve lost our rights to oppose anything the government has to say.” 

Glenn Hawkins, CFMEU member, told Red Flag: “I was at that rally, along with about 5000 other people, and I don’t see why they would pick out anybody … whether you’re a building worker, an apprentice or whatever, everybody should have the right to be able to go out in the street and have their say.”

The charges are the second major muscle flex of FWBC since anti-union zealot Nigel Hadgkiss resumed leadership of the regulatory body. Last year, it successfully prosecuted 117 striking construction workers, resulting in the imposition of fines totalling more than $1 million.