[Marxism] Freed militant unionist wants PM ousted

Peter Boyle peterb at greenleft.org.au
Wed May 25 21:35:34 MDT 2005


Freed militant unionist wants PM ousted
Sydney Morning Herald online, May 26, 2005 - 10:49AM

<http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/Freed-militant-unionist-wants-PM-ousted/2005/05/26/1116950792093.html>

Militant unionist Craig Johnston has walked free from a Victorian
prison, telling supporters he would rejoin the campaign to "drive the
Howard government out of office".

Mr Johnston, who was jailed for nine months for his role in
balaclava-clad union raids on two Melbourne businesses in 2001,
addressed the group of supporters who gathered outside the medium
security Loddon Prison to await his release about 8.30am (AEST).

The former Victorian secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers
Union (AMWU) will not be invited to re-join the union but a group of
about 50 unionists and supporters turned out in support.

Mr Johnston's address drew a rousing response and cheers of "workers
united will never be defeated" and "Craig Johnston, here to stay".

He told supporters the Howard government was trying to "smash the trade
union movement, smash student unions and any progressive organisation
that want to have, and see Australia as, a just and fair country with
good education, good health standards and good wage and conditions for
workers".

"I actually relish the chance to be part of the campaign to take on this
government and drive them out of office, because working people deserve
better," he said.

Johnston was convicted on two charges of affray, one of assault and one
of damaging property during the raids in June 2001, at Box Hill labour
hire firm Skilled Engineering and Bayswater company Johnson Tiles.

He has a further two-year jail term which is suspended pending good
behaviour for two-and-a-half years.

Senior union figures including ACTU secretary Greg Combet, sought to
distance themselves from Mr Johnston before his release.

But he is listed among the speakers at the National Union Fightback
Conference at the Victorian Trades Hall on June 11 alongside leaders
from construction, manufacturing and maritime unions.

His release from jail comes as the Howard government is set to unveil
its broad ranging plans for industrial reforms in Australia.

The plans can be implemented without hindrance when the government gains
control of the senate in July.


Union movement torn over Craig Johnston prison release

ABC Radio AM - Thursday, 26 May , 2005 08:20:00
Reporter: Lynn Bell
TONY EASTLEY: The Victorian unionist Craig Johnston will be released
from prison this morning after spending nine months behind bars. He was
convicted on charges of affray, assault and damaging property after
violent raids on two companies in Melbourne.

Johnston has made no secret of the fact that he's keen to join the
campaign against the Federal Government's planned changes to the
industrial relations system. But not everyone in the union movement
wants him back on board.

 From Melbourne, Lynn Bell reports.

LYNN BELL: Loddon Prison is a medium security facility in Central
Victoria, and this morning the hardline unionist Craig Johnston will
walk free from behind the gates.

Sue Bolton from the Free Craig Johnston Movement.

SUE BOLTON: There will be a gathering of unionists and other social
justice activists outside the gates of Loddon Prison to welcome Craig
Johnston's release.

LYNN BELL: But many will be steering clear of the welcome party,
including the National Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing
Workers' Union, Doug Cameron.

DOUG CAMERON: We expelled him for some serious misconduct, and as far as
we are concerned what he does as an individual is up to him, but he will
not be coming back as an AMWU member.

LYNN BELL: Craig Johnston is a former State Secretary of the AMWU.

He was sentenced in Victoria's highest court to two years and nine
months in jail, with nine months to be served and the remainder
suspended, after leading violent rampages through the offices of two
companies – Skilled Engineering and Johnson Tiles – in 2001.

His supporters, including Sue Bolton, say he's been a political prisoner.

SUE BOLTON: He was trying to save 29 workers' jobs who were thrown on
the scrap heap, replaced overnight with non-union, lower wage workers,
and he was one of many involved in a campaign to defend those workers' jobs.

LYNN BELL: But Doug Cameron sees it differently, and doesn't believe
Craig Johnston has anything to offer the current union campaign against
the Federal Government's proposed changes to workplace laws.

DOUG CAMERON: Well, I don't see any involvement, productive involvement
at all. This is a very serious campaign for workers in this country. The
destruction of workers' rights, the attacks on workers who are just
keeping their head above water by the Howard Government. It's far too
important an issue to be sidetracked by an individual and adventurism by
some far-left groups.

TONY EASTLEY: Doug Cameron, National Secretary of the AMWU, ending that
report from Lynn Bell.

<http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2005/s1377532.htm>

Militant unionist gets out of jail
By Jamie Berry
The Age online, May 26, 2005 - 10:29AM

<http://www.theage.com.au/news/National/Militant-unionist-gets-out-of-jail/2005/05/26/1116950787563.html>

Craig Johnstone with daughters Kimberley, 21, and Kate, 19, following
his release from Loddon Prison this morning.

Jailed union official Craig Johnston has addressed a crowd of supporters
shortly after being released from prison today.

Johnston, 47, the former Victorian secretary of the Australian
Manufacturers' Workers Union, was released from Loddon Prison, near
Castlemaine, in central Victoria, shortly after 8.30am.

He then addressed about 100 people, many of whom had come up from
Melbourne. His two daughters were also present.

Johnston, who was jailed for nine months in August for his part in union
raids on two Melbourne companies in June 2001, did not address the
media, but read from a handwritten statement thanking his "comrades" for
the support he received while behind bars.

"I also want to take the opportunity to thank all those people who
visited me over the last nine months, who supported (my) family, my
friends," Johnstone said.

"It does mean a lot when you are in jail ... so for that thanks very much."

Cuban comrades

He said: "Five Cuban comrades currently rotting in American jails" had
also sent him letters.

Johnstone said there were many good people in jail who should not be
there. He looked forward to catching up with them "on the outside".

He said he was proud of being sent to prison for standing up for
workers' rights, and relished the chance to rejoin the fight to ``drive
the Howard government out of office''.

"Working people of this country deserve better and I am sure we'll win
that campaign."

He told supporters the Government was trying to "smash the trade union
movement, smash student unions and any progressive organisation that
want to have, and see Australia as, a just and fair country with good
education, good health standards and good wage and conditions for workers''.

He is expected to address union members in Melbourne later today.

Johnston was convicted on two charges of affray, one of assault and one
of damaging property during the raids in June 2001, at Box Hill labour
hire firm Skilled Engineering and Bayswater company Johnson Tiles.

He has a further two-year jail term which is suspended pending good
behaviour for two-and-a-half years.

Senior union figures including ACTU secretary Greg Combet, sought to
distance themselves from Mr Johnston before his release.

Nor, it is reported, will he be invited to rejoin the AMWU.

But he is listed among the speakers at the National Union Fightback
Conference at the Victorian Trades Hall on June 11 alongside leaders
from construction, manufacturing and maritime unions.

His release from jail comes as the Howard Government is set to unveil
its broad ranging plans for industrial reforms in Australia.

The plans can be implemented without hindrance when the government gains
control of the Senate in July.

 From jail to fighting union war
Ben Packham, industrial reporter
Herald-Sun, 26may05

JAILBIRD militant unionist Craig Johnston is set to take a frontline
role in the union war against the Federal Government's workplace changes.

<http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,15409560%255E2862,00.html> 




The former metals union state secretary -- who will be released today
after nine months in prison -- is booked to speak at a national union
conference next month.

In a letter from jail, Johnston told his supporters: "I'm relishing the
thought of returning to the campaigns and actions in front of us".

His release from Loddon Prison will coincide with the unveiling of the
Federal Government's workplace reform plan.

Union leaders are divided over whether Johnston -- who was jailed for
leading violent raids on two Melbourne firms -- should play a big role
in their campaign.

The ACTU has asked him to stay away from the microphone at protest rallies.

"I hope he realises that those tactics that were used at Johnson Tiles
and Skilled Engineering are not appropriate and not legitimate union
tactics," ACTU secretary Greg Combet said.

But Johnston, who says he was a political prisoner, is seen as a hero by
supporters, including 15 union secretaries.

One of those -- construction union boss Martin Kingham -- is expected to
meet him outside the prison gates.

Johnston will speak at the National Fightback Conference at Trades Hall
on June 11. He will be on stage with Mr Kingham and Electrical Trades
Union boss Dean Mighell.

"I think he will exercise his democratic rights like anybody else," Mr
Mighell said.

He will get a cool response from the union which expelled him last July.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union national secretary Doug
Cameron said: "Craig Johnston has rights as an individual, but he is not
in the AMWU any more and he will not be acting on behalf of the AMWU".

Johnston has served his minimum jail term for leading balaclava-clad
unionists in the raids on Box Hill labour hire firm Skilled Engineering
and Bayswater company Johnson Tiles.

But he has a two years suspended term hanging over his head for the next
2 1/2 years.

Johnston pleaded guilty to two charges of affray and one each of assault
and damaging property.



Former union leader plans to rejoin fray

May 25, 2005 - 3:54PM

Militant unionist Craig Johnston is set to walk free from prison and has 
vowed to join the fight against changes to federal industrial laws.

Johnston, who was jailed for nine months in August for his role in union 
raids on two Melbourne businesses in 2001, has told supporters he was 
relishing the thought of joining the campaign against the planned 
legislation.

"The fight-back is coming," he said in a letter to the Socialist 
newspaper, Green Left Weekly.

But the mainstream labour movement fears the involvement of Johnston, a 
former Victorian secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union 
(AMWU), would be counter productive.

AMWU national secretary Doug Cameron, who is also a vice-president of 
the ACTU, said Johnston would not be welcome back in his old union.

Johnston will be released from the medium security Loddon Prison at 
Castlemaine, in central Victoria, about 9am (AEST).

Sue Bolton from the Free Craig Johnston campaign said several union 
leaders, including the state secretary of the Construction Forestry 
Mining and Energy Union, Martin Kingham, would be at the prison to greet 
him.

He was sentenced to two years and nine months, with nine months to be 
served immediately and the remainder suspended for two-and-a-half years.

He was convicted on two charges of affray, one of assault and one of 
damaging property during the raids in June 2001, at Box Hill labour hire 
firm Skilled Engineering and Bayswater company Johnson Tiles.

Ms Bolton said the suspended sentence would not prevent Johnston from 
re-involving himself in militant unionism.

She said Johnston had not been broken by his prison experience.

"He's been following things extremely closely (in prison) ... and will 
do whatever is in his power to support the union struggle against the 
Howard government," Ms Bolton said.

"Obviously, there are probably some things that he can't be on the 
frontline for, but he's committed to human justice and workers rights 
and will be involved in various issues in different ways from the past.

"He will still have a suspended sentence hanging over his head and the 
powers that be will be looking for the tiniest excuse to put Craig 
behind bars again."

Johnston is listed among the speakers at the National Union Fightback 
Conference at the Victorian Trades Hall on June 11, alongside leaders 
from construction, manufacturing and maritime unions.

© 2005 AAP

Welcome home Craig Johnston!

Former Victorian secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union
Craig Johnston will be released from jail on May 26. Johnston was
imprisoned for nine months on charges relating to an industrial dispute
in 2001.

Thousands of unionists and other supporters rallied in defence of
Johnston in November, protesting his unjust jailing. More than 10,000
signatures were collected on a petition calling for his release, however
Victorian Labor Premier Steve Bracks refused to show clemency and free
Johnston prior to the completion of his sentence.

Celebrate Johnston’s release and his return to the struggle for workers’
rights at a special event in Melbourne on May 26, 5.30-10pm at 8 Orr
Street, Carlton. There will be a barbeque, live music and drinks for
sale. Entry $10.

 From Green Left Weekly, May 25, 2005.
<http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2005/627/627p3c.htm>




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