June 28: we need a Sydney city rally too!

May 10, 2006

Liam Mitchell, Sydney

After weeks of pressure from rank-and-file unionists and left-wing unions, Unions NSW has decided to organise a rally in Sydney on June 28, the Australian Council of Trade Unions-called national day of action. However, to accommodate the ACTU's marginal seats campaign, the rally will be held in Blacktown, an outer western suburb.

Unions NSW secretary John Robertson has been saying publicly for some time that now is not the time to mobilise people on the streets. He actively opposed any mobilisation on June 28 and denied that the ACTU resolution supported a rally on this date.

The left unions in NSW had been pushing for a central rally in the city on June 28. Their deal with Robertson now places the rally squarely within the marginal seats campaign. Liberal Louise Markus holds the seat of Greenway, where the rally will be held, by just 0.58%.

While a large number of people live and work in Sydney's western suburbs, "Unions NSW's decision to hold a single June 28 rally in Blacktown will effectively disenfranchise the majority of Sydney's workers", Susan Price, president of the University of NSW branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, told Green Left Weekly.

For this reason, the Socialist Alliance has initiated a petition calling on Unions NSW to organise an additional rally on the same day in the city to enable more workers to participate in the national day of action. Price, a member of the alliance, explained: "Hundreds of thousands of people want to say what they think about John Howard's attack on our rights at work. A Blacktown rally gives people in part of Sydney's west a chance to protest, and that's good, but people from everywhere else in the Sydney region will find it hard, if not impossible, to take part."

Price was critical of Unions NSW's attempt to submerge the rally into its marginal seats campaign. "We need to build momentum with the campaign, not sideline it. Marginal seat campaigns have a very limited audience and are much less effective than industrial action and mass protest to get the message across to bosses and the government that we will fight them all the way if they try to use the Work Choices legislation."

The petition was launched at the May 7 May Day march in Sydney and will continue with the presentation of a resolution at Unions NSW's cross-union delegates' meetings on May 15-18. An organising meeting of all those interested in the campaign will be held on May 11 at 7pm, at the Gaelic Club, 64 Devonshire Street, Sydney. If Unions NSW refuses to endorse an additional Sydney city rally, the campaign will call on individual unions to organise one.

For more information, phone John on 0413 310 452 or Liam on 0415 365 937. The petition and resolution can be downloaded from <http://www.socialist-alliance.org>.

From Green Left Weekly, May 10, 2006.
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