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

Leung, Jenny Kwai-Sim and James, Kieran and Ahmad, Sujan (2011) From building site warriors to Korean church: radical strategic realignment in Sydney’s construction union. International Journal of Economics and Accounting, 2 (4). pp. 387-416. ISSN 2041-868X


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

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to published version due to publisher copyright policy.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business and Law - School of Accounting, Economics and Finance
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2012 06:43
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2017 00:06
Uncontrolled Keywords: class struggle; communist parties; construction industry; dialectic; left-humanitarianism; labour process; Marx; migrant workers; social movement unionism; trade unions; Korea; Australia
Fields of Research : 15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services > 1503 Business and Management > 150306 Industrial Relations
15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services > 1501 Accounting, Auditing and Accountability > 150199 Accounting, Auditing and Accountability not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objective: B Economic Development > 91 Economic Framework > 9104 Management and Productivity > 910401 Industrial Relations
B Economic Development > 87 Construction > 8799 Other Construction > 879999 Construction not elsewhere classified
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1504/IJEA.2011.044385

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