Mobilisation against Court's attacks


By Stephen Robson

PERTH — Rallying at noon on June 17 in Forrest Place, about 9000 unionists protested against the attacks being carried out by the Court state Liberal government.

The Trades and Labour Council leadership did not put any real resources into building the 24-hour strike. Instead it was left to individual unions to build the action. While a number of unions decided to strike for the day, others simply called a two-hour stoppage to attend the march and rally.

A contingent of several thousand was present from the State School Teachers Union (SSTU). Thousands of teachers went on strike, with up to half the teaching staff being out. Many students simply didn't turn up for school.

Members of the Waterside Workers Federation and Seamen's Union carried out rolling stoppages affecting six ships at the Fremantle port.

The Prospector train service between Perth and Kalgoorlie was cancelled after Westrail workers at Forrestfield and Kewdale walked off for 24 hours.

Speakers at the rally included Glenn Ferguson, secretary of the Meatworkers Union. One of the first steps of the incoming Court government was to announce the closure of the Robb Jetty abattoir, costing 500 jobs.

Other speakers included Colleen Hayward, senior vice-president of the SSTU, and John Olding from the Public Transport Union at the Midland Railway Workshop, where 750 jobs will be cut. Hayward informed the crowd that rallies were also taking place in the regional centres of Bunbury, Newman, Kalgoorlie, Albany, Port Hedland and Karratha. Two hundred and fifty teachers rallied in Bunbury and 100 in Karratha. Schools in Wyndham and Newman were completely closed.

Following this the rally marched off to Parliament House.

With the opening of parliament being scheduled for later in the afternoon, the TLC leadership had negotiated with Parliament House staff to hold the rally in a park nearby.

There events were chaired by Tony Cook, the assistant secretary of the TLC. Speakers included Carmen Lawrence, parliamentary leader of the ALP, and Jim Scott, the Greens upper house member of state parliament.

For bizarre reasons known only to the TLC leadership, they then invited Liberal industrial relations minister Graham Kierath to speak.

Not surprisingly, Kierath was hardly welcome. After considerable heckling and protest and Kierath's determination to keep speaking, the crowd abandoned the farce and marched around to the front of Parliament House.

TLC secretary Rob Meecham tried unsuccessfully to get the crowd to disperse. The relaxed crowd then started singing "We shall not be moved" and chanting slogans calling for "Jobs, not cuts". Builders Labourers Federation secretary Kevin Reynolds proposed that the rally vote on whether to stay or disperse. The vote was declared unanimous to stay.

When Charles Court, father of Premier Richard Court, arrived to go into Parliament House, the crowd surged forward. Police arrested four participants, charging them with disorderly conduct.

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