WORKERS SAY NO!:
BIG PROTESTS AGAINST ANTI-UNION BILL
"Just say NO", was the message to the Australian Democrats from the tens of thousands of people who took to the streets of Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne last week to protest against the Coalition Government's second wave industrial relations legislation. "When we say just say NO, Andrew, there is no other message. Just say NO. The package will not do", said Stephanie Mayman, Assistant Secretary of the Trades and Labor Council of Western Australia. The "Andrew" referred to is Andrew Murray, the Democrats' spokesperson on industrial relations. Workers, students, pensioners and the unemployed were united in their opposition to the anti-union, anti-worker legislation being pushed by the Government on behalf of its big business friends. The protesters were very mindful of the critical role that the Australian Democrats played in allowing the first wave of legislation to pass through the Senate in 1996. Far from creating jobs as promised by the Government, the first wave legislation has seen thousands more workers thrown out of work. At all of the protests the Democrats were warned to say NO or they would go at the next elections. Perth The Perth rally and march took place on Tuesday August 10. The weather could not have been worse, but that did not stop an estimated 3,000 people turning out in high spirits, and weathering the the heavy downpours of rain. There was a large community as well as trade union participation in the protest. ACTU President Jennie George was the main speaker. Dita Sari, recently released Indonesian political prisoner and leader of the National Front for Labour Struggles and the People's Democratic Party addressed the crowd, bringing greetings of solidarity from Indonesia. Western Australians have already experienced the State Government's union- busting legislation with its virtual deregulation of the labour market and enforcement of individual contracts. The State's trade unions have already met with Andrew Murray. "Mr Murray clearly has the last effort [to contend with] in terms of dissatisfaction amongst unionists with how the Democrats approached industrial relations in 1996", Ms Mayman told The Guardian. "He has to contend with that together with our view now which is much, much more stringent." The TLC will be making a submission and encouraging other unions to make submissions to the Senate Inquiry. Adelaide The next actions were in Adelaide on the Wednesday, one of the biggest protests seen in that city for some time. Organisers put participation at around 15,000. Workers joined other members of the community at Victoria Square where ACTU President Jennie George pledged that the trade union movement would stop efforts on the part of the Howard Government to "turn the clock back a hundred years to the days of the master-servant relationship" between employers and employees. Dita Sari thanked the Australian trade union movement and Jennie George personally for the support shown to the Indonesian workers in their current difficulties. She emphasised the global nature of the attacks being made on Australian workers. Melbourne On the Thursday morning it was Victorians who took to the streets of Melbourne. The Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) organised a rally and march which commenced outside the Trades Hall. The rally was notable not only for the numbers — most estimates being in the around 80,000 — but for the organised nature of the contingents. A telephone hookup to the Australian Democrats' office had been organised with an amplifier allowing the large gathering to hear and be heard. And heard they were, as VTHC Secretary Leigh Hubbard asked them to send a message to the Democrats. The message to the Democrats was "Say NO" or they would have to go. The VTHC has made available a room to serve as a campaign headquarters which is staffed on weekdays by volunteers. The intention is to keep the campaign going in the suburbs and rural areas by organising meetings, distributing publicity and collecting signatures. The rallies and marches will continue in regional Victoria. On Wednesday this week it is the turn of Brisbane to be followed by Sydney on Tuesday August 24, Hobart the next day, followed by Canberra on Thursday August 25. These rallies and marches are a beginning to be built on over the weeks and months to come. The legislation CAN and MUST be defeated.