The national tier of the construction union is yet to say whether it stands behind embattled Victorian boss John Setka, as five other unions from the state throw their support behind him.
Victoria’s manufacturing, electrical trades, rail and transport, plumbers and firefighters unions declared their support for Mr Setka on Tuesday, saying he should remain as state secretary of the CFMMEU unless his members decide otherwise.
The unions are calling for the issue, and decisions on Mr Setka’s position, to be left to members.
“Unions are democratic organisations who are answerable only to their members,” ETU state secretary Troy Gray said.
“When you attack the members’ right to choose their leadership, you are attacking the whole organisation and wider union movement.”
There’s so far been radio silence from the national branch of the CFMMEU. However, a public statement is possible soon, following a meeting of the union’s hierarchy met in Canberra on Tuesday.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese has moved to expel Mr Setka from the party over accusations he told colleagues anti-family violence campaigner Rosie Batty’s advocacy has led to men having fewer rights.
Mr Setka has rejected the allegations.
The Victorian branch of the CFMMEU wants the national arm to publicly support Mr Setka. It has also called for it to forensically investigate the “cowardly manufactured leaks” from the meeting where the comments about Ms Batty were allegedly made.
Victoria’s CFMMEU has vowed to end all financial support to the ALP if Mr Setka is expelled from the party, and to cut ties with unions that have “attacked the branch”.
Labor has received at least $11 million in donations from the construction union nationally since 2000.
Mr Setka has threatened legal action and a long battle if Mr Albanese tries to expel him.
But Mr Albanese has stood his ground. Senior senator Penny Wong said the Labor leader won’t be rattled.
“He’s not somebody who responds well to being threatened,” she said.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus last week demanded Mr Setka resign as secretary of the Victorian CFMMEU. The leaders of the three largest unions – representing mainly female workforces – followed suit.
On Sunday, the Australian Workers Union backed them but called for proper processes to be followed.
Mr Setka says Labor squandered millions of dollars during its unsuccessful federal election campaign and has vowed a long battle if Mr Albanese tries to expel him.
He is also threatening legal action.
He will face court later in June, when he is expected to plead guilty to two criminal charges, including one of using a carriage service to harass a woman.
Mr Albanese has said Labor received legal advice, which it acted upon, in terms of first suspending Mr Setka’s membership before the expulsion process took its course.
It is understood while the ALP could expel Mr Setka for bringing the party into disrepute, party rules set a high bar for expulsion over a “serious criminal offence”, which needs to have attracted a sentence of five years or more.