The Myer picket might have been lifted, but the Grocon dispute has not gone away. And, as ETU Assistant Secretary, Troy Gray explains, the campaign is developing on new fronts.
Let me be clear right from the outset – the Grocon dispute is far from over, and is ongoing.
The protests that gained a lot of media attention – a lot of it negative and critical – were the starting point, because having the right to be represented and have access to your union is what it’s all about.
Progress comes from protests
The right to protest has been fought for by Australian workers throughout history, from Eureka in 1854, and has achieved things like ending the Vietnam War and getting a great education system. Specifically in the Grocon dispute today, it’s about the rights of construction workers in Victoria to elect our own reps and to have some voice in, and some say on, those projects.
Obviously it flared up with the protests out the front of Myer in Lonsdale Street. The protests might have ended, but the campaign goes on – Grocon is not off the hook.
The CFMEU is waging a dedicated campaign, which we support, to ensure that its members on Grocon sites do have rights, do have a voice and do have the right to elect their own delegates. There’s a continuing media campaign, radio commercials and pamphlets going on.
Is your super in Cbus?
And now there is new aspect of the campaign – one in which in which ETU members are directly involved.
Some projects that Grocon works on are funded by Colonial First State Mutual. Among the sources of money that this fund manager can access for its investments is $1.5 billion of workers’ money held in the construction industry superannuation fund, Cbus.
So in short, Grocon is using construction workers’ super to fund its projects, via Colonial State First Mutual. This is the case with the Myer Emporium job.
ETU members are appalled that their retirement savings are being used on projects which threaten their safety and rights at work and are acting to hold Cbus to account.
Any Union member who has super with Cbus can now request that the Fund not invest your money – in any way, shape or form – in construction projects that don’t adhere to minimum standards in the industry. (We’re talking here about health and safety, the right to have union representatives, the right to have access to your unions; basically, all of the conditions that Grocon has been flouting on the Myer project and elsewhere.)
If you’re in Cbus and wish to voice your concern, contact the Union to get a copy of our form letter to the Fund (see below).
Funds should practise their codes of practice
Where you put your super is every worker’s decision alone, and Cbus should not take its members for granted. Cbus manages the super accounts of hundreds of thousands of construction workers largely because your unions go out of our way to include clauses that list Cbus as a default super fund in the EBAs we negotiate for you.
Like many other industry super funds, Cbus ticks off codes of practice on matters such as its investment policies and ethical issues. What we’re saying here is that Cbus needs to adhere to its own codes and policies – and in the current environment, that means that it should refuse to finance construction projects that engage the likes of Grocon.
Trash a century of progress, Daniel? Not now – not ever
The unions will ultimately win this dispute – we won’t stop until construction workers have regained our hard-won rights on sites throughout Victoria, and in particular on Grocon sites.
Large commercial construction work has been performed in this state by hundreds of thousands of construction workers working for thousands of employers for well over a century now. But there’s only ever been one employer who could provoke protests by two or three thousand construction workers in the street: Grocon.
If Daniel Grollo spent a bit more time on the job talking to genuine construction workers and the unions that represent them, then he might get a better feel for actually what the issues are and why Victorian construction workers demand your rights on site.
But as long as Daniel prefers sitting in a penthouse in New York, we’re not holding our breath.
Holding CBUS to account
5,000 ETU members have already written to Cbus in the latest phase of the union’s dispute with Grocon. To join the campaign, contact the ETU for a copy of this letter and send it on to Cbus.
CBus Trustee Board Chair & Trustees -
Care of/ Cbus CEO- Mr D. Atkin
Dear Mr Bracks
We are writing to you as representatives of Cbus members who have expressed their concerns about how their retirement savings are being used to support unethical corporate conduct in the construction industry.
The conduct of concern directly contrasts with maximising investment returns, as well as members’ health, safety and well being.
The culmination of recent events, from losses on financial markets to investment in developments which threaten returns and members safety, are leading to an erosion of confidence in Cbus by members. Having our own duty to advance the interests of members, we share their concerns.
Cbus is a proud signatory of the United Nations Principles of Responsible Investment (UNPRI) and an advocate of sound ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) practices. As such, Cbus’ members are entitled to expect that Cbus will actively respond to companies complicit in the violation of international human rights.
Cbus obligations under UNPRI and to members include ensuring investments in projects comply with core International Labor Organisation (ILO) Conventions on Freedom of Association, Protection for the Right to Organize, Collectively Bargain and the right to be safe and free from risks to life at work.
We note that CBus spends very substantial amounts of Cbus members’ money on UNPRI and other ethical ‘advisory’ services including; ACSI, ESG Research Australia, Investor Group on Carbon Disclosure.
We also note that Cbus’ ESG policy has supported the selection of fund managers who apply UNPRI, World Bank Equator Principles for Financial Institutions (EPFI), UN Global Compact and other ethical criteria to evaluate and monitor infrastructure investment project risks. These funds managers include:
Colonial First State Asset Management – CFSAM incorporate ESG considerations into investment strategies, including evaluation and monitoring of; staff engagement, injuries and safety reporting; levels of unionization and relationships with trade unions. (CFSAM invests approx $1.5 billion of Cbus Members’ funds)
Industry Funds Management - IFM ESG policy is closely aligned with the UN Global Compact and is integrated into its due diligence process. IFM requires compliance with international human rights which is over and above requirement to meet local and national laws. IFM review social issues such a labour relations, enterprise agreements and workplace safety to identify and mitigate areas of concern. (IMF invests approx $3.5 billion of Cbus Members’ funds)
We also note that Cbus invests millions of dollars of members’ savings through fund managers who do not comply with Cbus stipulated policy and UNPRI obligations: As well as fund managers who are not actively applying their ESG policies to current developers, builders and suppliers. This places members’ retirement savings at an unnecessary risk.
You will be aware from UNPRI Reports that Australian fund managers have a reputation internationally for signing up to UNPRI principles, but not consistently incorporating them into practice. This lack of demonstration of the principles purported to be adhered to must be rectified. Cbus members and their representatives need to have confidence in the veracity of Cbus communication in order to make informed decisions about their retirement savings.
In line with these concerns, we request that the Cbus Board & Investment Committee:
1. Review the Investment Committee’s compliance with its UNPRI obligations and fiduciary duties to advance members interests, including;
- due diligence processes to ensure ESG criteria compliance for current and future investment recipients
- monitoring, engagement and divestment strategies with ESG non-compliant investment recipients
2. Develop a clear ‘Code of Conduct’ containing the mandatory ESG criteria required for direct investment into building and infrastructure companies, their major contractors and suppliers.
We strongly support Cbus and seek to continue to do so. However in the absence of a comprehensive framework for managing ESG risks, there is little to reassure members that Cbus is not putting members’ safety and retirement savings at unnecessary risk.