||Issue No. 355||01 December 2006|
Seven Year Itch
Interview: Flying High
Unions: TUF on Toll
Industrial: Forward to the Past
Economics: Debt and the Economy
Obituary: The Charlatanry of Milton Friedman
Environment: Low Voltage
Legal: The Fair Deal
Review: A Little History
Boss With a Heart
Bully Tactics Canít Dull Protests
The Blue Scope steel workers were among thousands who down threats of reprisal to participate in the National Day of Action against Howard Government IR laws.
Australian Workers Union Port Kembla secretary Andy Gillespie is investigating the incident and has warned that the union will act if manage goes ahead with the threats to discipline the workers.
While numbers were down at some venues around Australia, more than 250,000 workers attending the protests - including 116,000 in more than 200 venues across NSW - to watch the Sky Channel broadcast from the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The ACTU said that significant numbers of workers rallied across Australia today despite intimidation from the Federal Government and strong pressure to stay at work from many employers.
Under the new IR laws workers can be docked four hours pay for any unauthorised work stoppage and in businesses with less than 100 employees, workers have no protection from being sacked unfairly and can be sacked without warning.
Earlier this week, a Commonwealth public servant, Greg McCarron, was also forced to appeal to a Full Bench of the Federal Court just for the right to use his leave entitlements to attend today's protest against the Government's IR laws.
In Melbourne, unions estimate that 60,000 people turned out at the MCG with Sharan Burrow, ACTU President, opening the rally by listing some of the unfair aspects of the new laws including the loss of protection from being sacked unfairly for millions of workers: "The Howard Government wants Australians, to "sit down and shut up", and take what the employer offers... You can be sacked without rhyme or reason and you have no right to defend yourself."
"With AWA individual contracts, we are now a nation where employers can say, "take it or leave it." It is a fact that every AWA made under these laws has removed award conditions. Overtime pay, penalty rates, public holiday rates - these are all being systematically stripped away," said Ms Burrow.
Speaking at the MCG rally and to the national broadcast, ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said: "It is undeniable that the longer these laws are in place, the more people will be directly affected. We are not engaging in a scare campaign as we have been accused by the Government. Our aim is to win the support of Australian people by telling them the facts."
Mr Combet revealed that the unions' would embark on a renewed push to overturn the IR laws with a concerted effort to win community support for a change of government: "We will campaign in the wider community and ask people to vote for change. What we do now is not just for us, but also for our children and for future generations... I am confident of our capacity to win."
ALP Leader Kim Beazley addressed the national protest and received a rousing cheer from the crowd when he promised that a future Labor Government would tear up the IR laws. Victorian Premier Steve Bracks also addressed the Melbourne rally, saying that the new laws are putting further pressure on working families.
Rocker Jimmy Barnes closed the unions' national rally satellite broadcast to an appreciative crowd with a terrific rendition of his famous song, 'Working Class Man'.
Qld Premier Peter Beattie addressed the Brisbane rally.
Union initial crowd estimates: 264,000 in total (not including Perth and WA rallies): Melbourne - 60,000 people; Victoria regions - 5,000; NSW - 116,000 at more than 200 venues, including 40,000 in the Sydney CBD; Canberra - 4,000; Adelaide - 30,000; SA regions - 1,000; Darwin - 2,500, NT regions - 500; Brisbane - 20,000; QLD regions - 25,000.
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