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

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

Addresses: 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

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

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

Published online: 22 Dec 2011 *

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