Sydney’s May Day march on May 1 highlighted the green ban imposed by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union on the demolition of Willow Grove, a heritage-listed building which the NSW government wants to “move” to make way for the Powerhouse Museum.
Around 3000 trade unionists and supporters took part in the upbeat rally through the city’s streets from Prince Alfred Park to Willow Grove.
Following the welcome to country by a Dharug woman trade union member, speakers addressed a variety of struggles including the need for international solidarity under COVID-19, the resilience of frontline workers and the injustice of wage freezes and austerity. Natalie Lang from the Australian Services Union and Allen Hicks from the Electrical Trades Union criticised the federal government for its complete failure to act on sexual harassment at work.
Two School Strikers 4 Climate and Ian Brown from Gamilaraay Next Generation, who are fighting to save country from Santos gas, made passionate pleas to combine the fight for jobs with the fight for a safe climate. They invited all unions to join their next strike on May 21 at 12noon at Sydney Town Hall.
National President of the Maritime Union of Australia Christy Cain called on the Australian Council of Trade Unions and individual unions to take up the fight to unionise more industries, saying the percentage of union coverage was too small. He said May Day, the workers’ day, needed to be a public holiday and challenged the ACTU to lead a fight over the matter.
“When workers come together in struggle, we win,” Cain said, who went on to stress that trade unions were about much more than just fighting for the wages and conditions of their own members.
“It is great to see the union movement together with the community here today. What [the bosses] forget is that the trade union movement is part of the community.”