Photo: Tony Massaria
While we as a union must always be looking forward, we must also never forget the leaders and fighters of our movement who have brought us this far.
Anyone who’s been to your RTBU office on Queen Street may have noticed that our Delegates Room is named after Tony Massaria, a highly respected and hard-working Organiser who tragically lost his life while on the job. His portrait hangs on the wall.
Tony Massaria was a beloved Infrastructure and Workshops Organiser for the RTBU from 2000 to 2006, prior to which he had been an Organiser for the CFMEU.
Tony’s life was tragically cut short on Thursday 12 October 2006, when he was killed in an accident in the Tottenham terminal yard. Shortly after dropping a Delegate back to the job, Tony was leaving the yard to return to the union office when his car was struck by a train on a crossing, killing him instantly.
This tragedy was a sobering moment for all in the union movement.
Tony joined the union movement for the same reasons as many others, to fight for better, safer conditions for workers. It was unjust that Tony would lose his life on the job.
Tony had previously served the Victorian and WA branches of the Builders Labours Federation (BLF), working under Norm Gallagher, John Cummins and Kevin Reynolds. His industrial and political ideas were forged on the anvil of the deregistration and derecognition of the BLF in the 1980s, in an effort by governments and bosses to destroy the construction union.
Tony’s involvement in this bitter struggle was as a rank-and-file activist, Delegate and Organiser and this experience shaped his views and made him a battle-hardened and fearless unionist. After his innings at the BLF and CFMEU, Tony came aboard the RTBU as an Organiser in 2000.
Despite having come from outside our industry, Tony quickly wrapped his head around all the issues in infrastructure and workshops and how to tackle them strategically.
Tony believed in “going down where the hammers whack” and spending time with our members and delegates on the job.
Tony understood the vital importance of a strong delegate network and would prop up delegates going through hard times and allow fiery up-and-comers plenty of space to make their mark. During his time, he developed a new layer of younger delegates who were schooled in the art of battling with private companies and the growing number of subcontractors and labour hire companies who were emerging in the newly privatised environment post-1998.
With the help of key delegates these companies were unionised, organised, and placed under Collective agreements one by one.
Tony knew the importance of solidarity. He forged and made alliances with other unions combined union shop committees and maintained good relationships with other unions in and around the industry, while at the same time protecting the interests of our own members and union.
Tony took every problem head on, ensured every new member signed up, and fought until every contractor was nailed in an EA. Everything he did, he did for the good of the union.
Tony’s death devastated the RTBU’s team of officials, members, delegates and everyone who called him a comrade and friend. The RTBU wrote of Tony at the time, “It’s the sum total of all of those things, big and small, that got us back into our own property and back on the road to strength and power. Tony, you didn’t do it on your own, but we couldn’t have done it without you.”
There are lessons in Tony’s story for us today that we must never forget.
Members must be empowered and know that they’re the ones leading their union, Delegates must be given the tools to stand up and make a difference where they work, the betterment of the union must always come first, and above all else, every worker should make it home safe.
We will continue to honour his memory through the work we do, and Tony will never be forgotten. We honour the dead and fight like Hell for the living.
Photo: RTBU & Tony’s Loved ones meeting for Tony’s Memorial Day 2022