Title: From building site warriors to Korean church: radical strategic realignment in Sydney's construction union


Author: Jenny Kwai-Sim Leung; Kieran James; Ahmad Sujan


Discipline of Accounting, School of Commerce, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga campus, Locked Bag 588, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2678, Australia.
School of Accounting, Economics and Finance, Faculty of Business, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba Qld. 4350, Australia.
Department of Accounting & Finance, Monash University, Wellington Road, Clayton VIC 3800, Australia


Journal: Int. J. of Economics and Accounting, 2011 Vol.2, No.4, pp.387 - 416


Abstract: We present a detailed case study of the relationship between migrant labour and a trade union in a period immediately following 12 years of hostile neo-liberal politics in Australia: 1996-2007. We find that Australia's Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has reinvented itself as a centralised but humanitarian organisation in the face of sustained institutional hostility at governmental and industrial levels. In the process the union has become a valuable arm of assistance for migrant workers in their endeavours to access acceptable wages, decent working conditions, and post-Dickensian standards of workplace safety. Through three micro-cases we detail worker exploitation and document a dedicated organisational strategy of humanitarian union action towards migrant workers which both goes far beyond the normal expectations of union membership. Accounting is implicated in our micro-cases as it is, according to the theory of A. Tanaka, the brain or 'social consciousness' of capital. The ideology of accounting ultimately dehumanises workers because wages expenses go 'above the line' and hence are seen as just a further cost item to be minimised.


Keywords: class struggle; communist parties; construction industry; dialectic; left-humanitarianism; labour process; Marx; migrant workers; social movement unionism; trade unions; Korea; Australia; humanitarian organisations; acceptable wages; working conditions; workplace safety; critical accounting; social consciousness.


DOI: 10.1504/IJEA.2011.044385




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