May Day this year, held on May 6 in Sydney, was the strongest, most powerful and largest May Day I have marched in for years.
I joined with dozens of union contingents comprising thousands of workers in Sydney, chanting “The workers united will never be defeated” and “What do we want? The right to strike.”
May Day has a long history in the workers’ rights movement and grew out of the campaign that won the eight-hour day more than a century ago — a right that is being rapidly eroded, with many people forced to work more than 50 hours a week while others are forced onto zero hour contracts.
There have been criticisms of previous May Day’s in Australia for lacking a political focus. But this one was different, with the growing Change the Rules for workers campaign taking off.
The Change the Rules campaign is a reaction to successive Labor and Coalition governments implementing increasingly anti-union laws and powers — laws that are leading to the right to strike and for workers to be able to unionise being made illegal.
These powers are even being used to make it illegal to have the Eureka Flag and other union symbols on construction sites.
This comes at a time of wage cuts, penalty rates eroding, increased casualisation and understaffing in public service sectors, such as health.
All the while, corporate profits soar to new records.
Change the Rules challenges this. The thousands of people who marched on May Day, from Fremantle’s largest march in years to the thousands upon thousands of workers taking to the streets on May 9 in Melbourne, is building the momentum to reverse these attacks.
It is important that we keep this momentum and win key demands to improve working conditions, such as penalty rates, equal pay, the right for union officials to enter work sites, EBAs, end the exploitation of migrant workers and outlaw zero hour contracts among others. You can find a list of 10 key demands for workers’ rights on Green Left Weekly.
With more rallies planned for later this month, the energy on the streets this May Day promises to give Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull’s anti-union agenda a real challenge.
[To get involved with the campaign go to changetherules.org.au.]