Subject: Thousands send off union chief

Also Vale John Cummins 1948-2006 (Timor excerpt only)

Herald Sun (Australia)

September 5, 2006 Tuesday

Thousands send off union chief

John Cummins


ABOUT 2000 people marched through the city yesterday to honour union official John Cummins, who died of cancer last week aged 58.

Underworld figure Mick Gatto was among mourners who packed the Regent Theatre for Mr Cummins' funeral service.

The Supreme Court has heard Mr Gatto brokered meetings between retirement village developer Primelife Corporation and Mr Cummins, state president of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

The court heard the company had union problems at a time of growth.

Yesterday, Mr Cummins was remembered as a tough unionist who struggled for the rights of building workers.

Addressing Mr Cummins' two sons, Father Peter Norden said their father was jailed twice for contempt of court after visiting sites illegally.

''Your father was in prison because of his honesty,'' Father Norden said, adding that when he asked why he did it, Mr Cummins said: ''I was just doing my job.''

Mr Cummins played a high-profile role in the deregistered Builders' Labourers Federation, but fell out with the union's boss, Norm Gallagher, over amalgamation with the CFMEU.

The Howard Government's Australian Building and Construction Commission had been pursuing Mr Cummins over a coercion claim at the time of his death.

Brother Jeff said Mr Cummins was a passionate sportsman who supported Fitzroy Football Club and repeated his final year of high school to captain the footy team.

He said his brother's career path became clear when he organised protests as a student at La Trobe University.

A Sherrin footy, a Fitzroy jumper and a hard hat were placed on the coffin.

Unionist Ralph Edwards spoke against the Howard Government, which he said was trying to destroy the CFMEU.

''Make no mistake, we will fight,'' Mr Edwards told mourners.

As Mr Cummins' coffin was carried into the hearse on Collins St, hundreds of unionists saluted with clenched fists.

The crowd then marched behind the funeral entourage to Trades Hall.

A message of condolence from the East Timor Government was read out during the service.

Mr Cummins is survived by his wife, Diane, sons Shane and Mick, and his father, Jack, 97.


[Timor excerpt only] 

Socialist Alliance

Vale John Cummins 1948-2006

Michael Bull

John Cummins, whom many consider the greatest trade union leader and industrial tactician of our time, died after a year-long battle with cancer on August 29. Cummo, as he was known, was either the most loved, or the most feared, of all union leaders.


In 1996, it was the campaign against the tax on travel allowances; in 1997 the enterprise bargaining and Work Cover campaigns; in 1998 the wharfies' dispute with Patrick Stevedores; in 1999 the campaign for East Timor; in 2000 the 36 hour-week campaign; in 2001 the long-service leave campaign; in 2002 the campaign against the building industry royal commission; then two more enterprise bargaining campaigns in 2003 and 2005. All of these campaigns involved members in activities on site and in public rallies, ensuring that old activists were kept active and new members were being brought into activism.


Another campaign in which he was instrumental was the liberation of East Timor in September 1999. Cummo had visited East Timor on an ACTU-led exposure tour in July that year and had pledged his solidarity to the Timorese. When the Indonesian military and the militias went on the rampage killing and forcibly displacing large numbers of Timorese, Cummo mobilised construction workers at Melbourne Airport and closed down the check-in desk at Garuda Airlines. A deal was then negotiated with Qantas to pick up the stranded passengers.

Even though the action was largely symbolic, it created a furore and received widespread media coverage around the world. The Indonesian foreign minister voiced strong protest about the Australian government's inaction in allowing Garuda to be closed down.

Again the establishment was in a quandary if they had broken up the picket using force, it would have sent a message to the Australian public that they supported Indonesia's violent actions in East Timor. So they did nothing. The tactics were perfect and the picket continued until the Australian government agreed to send in troops to stop the killings in East Timor.

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