The Guardian August 18, 1999


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.


Back to index page