Biggest Labour Day in 25 years

May 13, 1998


Biggest Labour Day in 25 years

By Chris Dawson

As the last of the more than 10,000 Labour Day marchers poured into Albert Park at 11.40am on May 4, Maritime Union national organiser Jim Tannock announced the MUA's High Court victory from the stage. The battle cry of the dispute, "The workers united will never be defeated!", rang around the park.

The march, led by the MUA, took 90 minutes to cover the 2km from Trades Hall to Albert Park. The largest contingents, apart from the MUA, included the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the Builders Labourers Federation and the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union.

Political groups were relegated to the end of the march, although the Democratic Socialist Party and Resistance contingent occupied a traffic island from where they led the passing contingents in chants of "MUA, here to stay". The ALP contingent was treated to spirited chants of "East Timor, freedom now!". The Labor marchers did not join in.

Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation, Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor, Children by Choice, Committee in Solidarity with Latin America and the Caribbean, the Communist Party of Australia and the International Socialists also marched.

After Tannock's announcement, state Labor opposition leader Peter Beattie was the only speaker. Beattie praised the MUA for its strength and courage in the struggle — his first intervention in the dispute — and focused his speech on calling for support for the ALP in the state election.

Following the march, 60 people attended a May Day toast at the Resistance Centre where they were entertained by a wide range of performers and held spellbound by Green Left Weekly's Russian correspondent Renfrey Clarke's description of life for working people in Russia today.

Paul Glenning reports from Rockhampton that more than 1000 people joined the May Day rally there on May 1, which focused on solidarity with the MUA. Alongside strong trade union contingents, activists from Resistance, the healthy rivers campaign and the anti-Jabiluka mine campaign marched under their own banners. Many people signed up to join the anti-Jabiluka mine campaign on the day.

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