Yesterday’s protest outside CFMEU headquarters in Victoria marked a watershed moment for the union and the Labor Party.
Thousands of construction workers rallied outside the CFMEU base demanding to see union boss John Setka after failing to protect members from Labor’s mandatory vaccination order.
In an extraordinary move, the CFMEU released an official statement blaming the protest on a mob of far-right Nazis instead of acknowledging the anger of thousands of CFMEU construction workers.
The CFMEU turned the comment section off to prevent anyone questioning the accusations laid out in their media release, which ‘condemns far-right extremist violence.
In reality, video footage from the day shows the vast majority were outraged union members.
“These are not actions of people who care about their workmates and the construction industry,” said the press release, making no mention of union members demanding Setka save their jobs.
Starting from next week, any construction worker that has not begun the vaccination process will lose their job.
Furious, union members demanded to know what they paid their union fees for as Labor’s health orders threaten their livelihoods.
Setka repeatedly claimed he has never supported mandatory vaccination for union members.
Whether or not he supports it personally, the CFMEU, under Setka’s direction, has done nothing to stop Labor leader Daniel Andrews’ health orders from putting thousands of union members’ jobs at risk.
This verbal scuffle over mandatory vaccination resulted in the crowd chanting, “Dan Andrews’ bitch!” at Setka, drowning out his attempts to calm them.
The confrontation started badly, with Setka’s off-sider flipping an ‘up yours’ V-sign as he stepped out of the building to address the crowd.
Tensions escalated as Setka asked the crowd if they wanted him to shut the whole construction industry down, to which they replied, “Shut it down! Shut it down!”.
They then called Setka a ‘sell-out’ and ‘scabber’ for allowing other constructions workers to cross the picket line and take their jobs instead of standing up for the rights of all workers.
Getting nowhere, Setka turned his back on the crowd and retreated into the building. This sparked the furious workers to throw water bottles and attempt to follow him into the CFMEU headquarters. Union officials were shown on camera viciously beating members of the crowd with the megaphone before the doors closed.
The CFMEU has since changed its rhetoric of protecting its members’ right to work into ‘defending members’ right to work safely’, allowing them to support Labor’s mandatory vaccination plan.
On the weekend, police appeared in full riot gear to intimidate and arrest Freedom Day protesters while Premier Daniel Andrews had public transport across Melbourne shut down.
Shocking scenes emerged of Victoria Police attacking journalists with pepper spray and shoving an elderly woman to the ground where a mask-less cop sprayed her in the face at close range.
This time, police hung back even as nearly a thousand people congregated outside the CFMEU headquarters in clear violation of the standing health orders.
Police conduct caused people to ask why they were observing a double standard for CFMEU union members – an action that further undermines claims from political commentators later in the evening that these were ‘far-right Nazi thugs’. The police almost certainly would have engaged in the same heavy-handed policing seen against Freedom Day protesters if they were.
Despite the protest swelling as workers from nearby construction sites took their lunch breaks, arriving in their high-vis vests, boots, and hard hats – some commentators continued to cling to the idea that this was some kind of Nazi conspiracy.
These commentators did not explain how a protest of this magnitude was organised while a dedicated social media task force was supposed to be monitoring fringe ‘far-right’ accounts.
The bizarre accusations that CFMEU workers are ‘far-right Nazis’ came off as a desperate attempt by the embarrassed CFMEU to invalidate the grievances of their members.
Unsurprisingly, the accusation further infuriated construction workers.
They have vowed to picket the CFMEU headquarters every day until Setka does something about the health orders.
Labor figures have stepped forward to defend the CFMEU’s honour.
Ex-Labor Leader Bill Shorten called protesters ‘professional troublemakers.
“There is a network of hard-right, man-baby Nazis, people who just want to cause trouble and complain about the vaccination,” said Shorten.
The accusation appears to be little more than a slur without any grounding in ideological reality.
“They deserve to get the full force of everything that’s coming their way,” Shorten continued.
What’s ‘coming their way’ for union members who refuse vaccination is the queue at Centrelink.