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

Jenny Leung, Kieran James, Ahmad Sujan

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    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.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)387 - 416
    Number of pages30
    JournalInternational Journal of Economics and Accounting
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

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