BIG (AMWU, CFMEU, ETU, PPTEU) vs Little (Blue-Winged Shoveler & Friends)

[Update (August 31, 2023) : The Victorian parliament’s Select Committee on Victoria’s Recreational Native Bird Hunting Arrangements has published its report and among other things recommended recreational duck hunting be completely banned from 2024. You can download a PDF copy of the report here. Dictator Dan’s government has six months to implement the Report’s recommendations (or not), while the BIG unions have vowed to punish Labor MPs if they proceed a ban. (August 26, 2023) : Feathers ruffled: Unions vow to shut out Labor if duck hunting banned, Kieran Rooney, The Age, August 25, 2023.]

There’s BIG news on the local industrial relations front:

The combined forces of the Victorian branches of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), Construction Forestry Maritime Mining And Energy Union (CFMEU), Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and Plumbing and Pipe Trades Employees Union (PPTEU) have declared WAR! on the Blue-winged Shoveler & Co..

Well, kinda.

Actually, the unions — as members of the Victorian-based ‘Building Industry Group’ (BIG) — have issued a joint statement denouncing a proposed ban on duck hunting in Victoria, and vowed to take, inter alia, some form of unspecified industrial action should Dictator Dan’s ruthless government deny their members the right to go duck hunting next year.

On the other side of the equation to the unions are the eight species of native duck currently considered fair game: the Blue-winged Shoveler, Grey Teal, Chestnut Teal, Hardhead, Mountain Duck, Pink-eared Duck, Pacific Black Duck and Wood Duck.

But wait, there’s more!

In addition, presumably, to the Native Fowl Association, Animals Australia, the Australian Veterinary Association, Birdlife Australia, Environment Victoria, Labor Environment Action Network, RSPCA Victoria and Wildlife Victoria are also calling on the Victorian state government to ban duck hunting.

Exactly why these unions — with a membership in the order of 85,000 workers — have decided to adopt this particular issue as a hill to die/lake to kill on is unclear, but the BIG statement takes note of the fact that workers on the various construction projects of the government’s Big Build do ‘suicide shifts’ — ‘7 x 12-hour days followed by 7 x 12-hour nights’ — and that, consequently, many have great difficulty finding time for recreation: for some, that means time to go duck hunting.

For context, Davey Heller writes:

The threatened industrial action takes place as the Victorian Labor Government holds a Parliamentary Inquiry into the duck hunting season. Half of Australia’s state governments have already banned the hunting of native water bird species including NSW, WA and Queensland over concerns of animal cruelty and a long-term trend of declining numbers of native wetland birds.

In a highly-informative thread on Apartheid Clyde’s micro-blogging service, Sarah Missen notes:

The framework around the discussion of “suicide shifts” is alarming. The industrial action isn’t about dangerous & strenuous rosters. It is about the “right” of these workers to go hunting in order to relax after these “suicide shifts”.

In an OHS framework, eliminating “suicide shifts” would be the most effective. Ensuring access to duck hunting isn’t on the [hierarchy] of controls. This is like bosses telling stressed out workers to practice mindfulness rather than addressing the issues at work.

According to Mates in Construction, 190 construction workers die by suicide in Australia each year. Construction workers are 6x more likely to die from suicide than an accident at work. Promoting relaxing with firearms, & terminology like “suicide shifts” are both concerning.

Why are unions willing to put so much time, effort and resourcing into this campaign? With so many OHS issues; a cost of living crisis; a housing crisis; a climate emergency… why is this the big issue? And is it even an issue for the majority of union members?

Given all this, it poses the question of whether and to what extent the BIG unions are in fact being used as a stalking horse by lobby groups; those whose interest lies less in maintaining safer working conditions and more, perhaps, in propping up a failing industry. To the best of my knowledge, the BIG has not issued any other public statements — on any subject — so it may be that there’ll be clarifications in future. The BIG has in fact issued previous statements, and been in operation for some years. See, for example, this one issued in October 2021 welcoming the re-opening of construction work [PDF].

In any case, of ‘The politics of duck hunting’, Former Labor Guy Kos Samaras reckons only ‘Around 11k Victorians hunt ducks. They mostly earn over 100k. The ave working class income is almost half that. Who they are not? Labor/Greens voters in Melbourne and ‘red’ regional cities. Especially Millennials, Gen Z in these areas.’ I suppose the only other thing to add at this stage is that one of the only actual construction workers and CFMEU members to have been elected to the Victorian state parliament in recent years is Andy Meddick of the Animal Justice Party, who campaigned for a ban on duck hunting.

• In other news, the CFMEU asked Labor’s national conference ‘Corporate super-profit tax?’, to which the party said ‘No!’ (Union push for ‘super profit tax’ to fund housing watered down at Labor conference, Jake Evans, ABC, August 17, 2013), while saying ‘Yes!’ to greater access rights (CFMEU commits Labor to get ‘foot off our necks’, David Marin-Guzman, Australian Financial Review, August 18, 2023).

See also : Victorian unions take wrong turn in campaign against duck hunting, Davey Heller, Independent Australia, August 24, 2023.

BONUS! Propaganda

I forgots to add some of the public relations material produced by the BIG in conjunction with the ‘Outdoor Recreation Advocacy Group’ (ORAG) above, so will instead upload it below.

First, the BIG statement of August 17 (AKA ‘They’re coming for your salami!’):

Secondly, the advertisement the BIG and/or ORAG placed in the printed edition of The Age and Herald Sun newspapers of July 19 (AKA ‘Outdoor Recreation Under Attack!! It’s Coming Right For Us!!!!‘):

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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