Bob says: “The campaign needs to continue”

The support that I received, particularly from the construction unions in Queensland, was magnificent. Thousands downed tools and marched to the hearing, filling the foyer of the court, where I was able to address the workers and thank them for their support.

We had support too, from the United Voice union, and from socialist groups, Socialist Alternative and Workers’ Liberty in particular.

There was an intense, palpable feeling when it was announced that the case had been dismissed. Such things give confidence to workers that if they support their comrades when they’re under attack, they can achieve victory even when it seems virtually impossible.

I’ve now been invited to talk to four hundred stewards down in the engine room of construction unionism, in Victoria. So we have given workers some degree of confidence that everything isn’t hopeless in a world where workers don’t get many wins.

The acquittal shows the importance of what organisations like Workers’ Liberty have done. The international support I received was astounding, and maybe more solid than the national support. It’s important that people know the dispute came under a lot of high-level surveillance. Some of my emails were hacked, including ones from Workers’ Liberty.

Our campaign needs to continue. Abigroup is claiming damages $300,000 a day. Because of my role in the last 30 days of the dispute, they are trying to get $9 million out of me!

The standard of proof in a civil case is “balance of probabilities” rather than “beyond reasonable doubt”so we’re faced with a difficult situation.

Lend Lease [parent company of Abigroup] is hell bent on bankrupting community activists for supporting workers and demanding massive damages from unions along the way for simply trying to ensure that workers doing the same work are paid the same pay.

The union is also being sued for damages, but my defence is separate from the union’s defence, since I acted as a community activist rather than under the instruction of the union.

If the case against me personally is successful, it will establish a precedent that any member of the public who joins a community protest supporting a group of workers will be financially liable for the losses the employers say they suffered.

There is a community protest down in Port Melbourne where activists have been highlighting the case of six dockworkers who have been sacked because they refused to do a job they weren’t properly trained to do. Already community activists have been hit with injunctions, so you can see the shape of things to come if Abigroup are able to get away with this.

It is really important that unions and community groups work together and that no one is left isolated.

  • From an interview in Solidarity, the newspaper of Workers’ Liberty (UK), 28 August 2013.
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