Save Dave campaign highlights injustice of our industrial laws

The recent vindictive sacking of our Appin Lodge President and Central Councillor Dave McLachlan is a perfect illustration of just how stacked Australia’s industrial laws are in favour of big business and against ordinary workers and why they need to be changed.

Dave led a 10-minute novel protest before the start of day shift on 7 March at South 32’s Appin colliery. Our members held a meeting dressed in helmets, boots, shirts and undies in a light hearted gesture to highlight the company’s year-long refusal to honour its legal obligation to supply the workers with new work clothes and a laundry service. Point made, they donned their dirty company work clothes and were on the job 10-minutes later.

In a massive over-reaction, South 32 has singled out Dave for the severest punishment and sacked him.

Dave has worked at the Appin Colliery for 16-years and has an unblemished work record. He has never been disciplined or ever warned.

For the past 10-years Dave has been the Lodge President at Appin and a leader in ensuring the colliery had been one of the most industrially harmonious and productive in the coal industry. Dave is a 30-year veteran of the coal mining industry, a local, hard working family man. His family and his work mates are devastated by South 32’s vindictive and callous attack on Dave.

His sacking is completely against Australia’s community standards and values. The CFMEU has launched a national campaign calling on all fair-minded Australians who support a Fair Go to stand with Dave and demand South 32 immediately reinstate him.

The Save Dave campaign is gaining momentum every day featuring prominently on TV, radio and front pages throughout the Illawarra.

During the federal Budget week, Dave and supporters took the campaign to our national political leaders in Canberra. Among those who met Dave to support his reinstatement are Labor Leader Bill Shorten, Senator Jacqui Lambie as well as many more Federal MPs.

The Union movement throughout Australia is rallying behind the Save Dave campaign with new ACTU Secretary Sally McManus appearing in a TV Ad calling on the public to Save Dave.

As General President of our Union, I have written to the CEO and Chairman of South 32 calling for Dave’s reinstatement. We know they have also received letters from leading Federal MPs. There is a petition that members can sign on our website as well as a host of videos supporting Dave.

The absurdity and injustice of Dave’s sacking by a callous and vindictive mining company not only damages South 32’s reputation, it puts its social licence to operate at risk and that is not good for our mining industry as a whole.

The public increasingly understands that when a worker is unfairly sacked, the repercussions can have a devastating effect on their family too. Dave’s wife Joan and his mum Ruth, along with the rest of his family, are playing a magnificent role in highlighting the wider consequences of this injustice.
Our Union is legally fighting Dave’s unfair dismissal. We are also prosecuting South 32’s Appin managers for their failure to meet their legal obligations to supply the work clothes and laundry service as per the agreement.

It is South 32 who should be copping the rap for breach of agreement and failure to respect its employees. Dave’s sacking is a clear cut case of workplace mistreatment. We’re urging everyone to get behind the Save Dave campaign and calling on South 32 executives to end this injustice and give Dave his job back.

This article originally appeared in Common Cause, Volume 83, No. 1


Tony Maher