Interview: Polar Eclipse
Industrial: Wrong Turn
Unions: Star Support
Workplace: Checked Out
Economics: Sold Out
Politics: Green Banned
History: Potted History
International: Curtain Call
Review: Little Fish
Poetry: Slug A Worker
The Locker Room
On The Bus
Driving down King Street we were being stared at. Sydneysiders rushing to get home paused to look at us. When you're in a bright orange bus you're bound to attract attention.
We had just returned from the Unions NSW tour of the South Coast. The mission was to get the message out about the upcoming attack on workers' rights and to hear from people in their communities about their fears for the future under the changes.
The bus left Unions NSW headquarters on Monday morning, first heading down to Wollongong University, then down the coast to Merimbula and then back up through inland cities Cooma, Queanbeyan and Goulburn. Along the way the way we visited worksites and held public meetings to discuss the changes.
The people we met were as diverse as the land we travelled through. Teachers, nurses, retirees, casual workers, council workers, dock workers and warehouse workers were some of the people that had turned up to meetings.
"I'm not comfortable sitting in the managers office discussing what I'm worth," nurse Dianne Lang told people gathered at Merimbula Bowling Club. "I've never been politically motivated, but I am now."
At Batemans Bay, retired dockworker Keith Simmons reminded people that the rights we take for granted were fought for by people like his father. He had grown up in the days before annual leave; his father was not able to holiday with his family. He knew first hand the importance of unions.
In Cooma, former business owner Ian Robertson spoke on how the proposed laws would make things more difficult for small business. He said bosses who tried to do the right thing by their workers would be undercut by less scrupulous operators, forcing them to follow suit or get out of business.
The feeling from everyone who spoke and attended meetings was that they had not voted for the changes. In electorates dominated by conservatives, people wanted to know why their representatives were pushing ahead with reforms that weren't even mentioned before they went to the ballot boxes.
Unfortunately, no Coalition members turned up to the meetings, despite being invited; prior engagements was the main reason given.
Unions NSW Secretary John Robertson told people to stand firm and continue to take their concerns to their MPs. Speaking at Merimbula, in the electorate of Eden-Monaro he said: "[Liberal member] Gary Nairn will wave goodbye to us from behind the Venetians when we leave but you're here and he can't ignore you."
And that was the message given out at all meetings. If people are to beat these changes, they have to let their politicians know. "That can only happen when people like you stand up to be counted," Robertson said.
The people are starting to stand up.
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