Thousands of Australian workers set to rally against IR reform

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Melbourne, Australia 150,000 turnout for Protest

Police and union leaders across the country expect big crowds during today's National Community Day of protest against the Federal Government's WorkChoices proposed changes to industrial relations laws.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) predicts hundreds of thousands of people will demonstrate in Sydney and Melbourne. Protest meetings in other capital cities are expected to attract workers in their tens of thousands. The rallies will take place in 300 regional sites across Australia.

Labor's opposition spokesman on industrial relations, Stephen Smith says, "The more people become aware of the nature of the changes and the detail of the changes, the more they realise how vulnerable they are and the more they want to do something to prevent the changes."

Mark Bethwaite, from Australian Business Ltd, believes most people will go to work as usual. "Because frankly they are not convinced by the scare campaign the ACTU has been running," Mr Bethwaite said.

The Federal Government has been accused of instructing agencies to refuse staff leave to attend the rallies against its IR changes and says it will not be affected by a rally of one person or a 100,000.

The Federal Department of Workplace Relations has issued advice to other departments that employees wanting to attend the National Community Day of Protest should be denied leave.

State and territory leaders intend to mount a High Court challenge to the Federal Government's proposed industrial relations changes.

The ACTU say, "the IR changes are not just an attack on workers – they fundamentally undermine the values that make Australia great. Beneath all the glossy advertising are proposals that will unfairly curtail your rights at work, cut the amount of time you can spend with family, and erode your job security."

The federal government have spent over fifty million dollars on promoting the radical new changes.

Unions say the changes will make it easier for workers to be sacked; cut take-home pay and reduce minimum standards; change the way minimum wages are set to make them lower; replace the award safety net with just five minimum conditions; restrict access to unions; make it harder for employees to bargain as a group; and reduce the powers of the independent Industrial Relations Commission."

In Melbourne, Australian Education Union's Mary Bluett said the IR legislation "is not the legacy we want to leave our children." About 12,000 public servants, 10,000 building workers and hundreds of nurses are also expected to join the protest, but workers operating road, train, tram and bus services will remain on duty to allow commuters to travel free to the rally.

Sky News estimated the number attending the rally in Melbourne as 175,000.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry labelled the rally "a tired union stunt".

Related news

Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: Australian industrial relations legislation, 2005

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