A not so happy anniversary for workers' rights

Issue 

Around 120 people rallied outside Liberal MP for Deakin Phil Barresi's electoral office in Mitcham, Melbourne, on March 27, the anniversary of the proclamation of the federal Coalition government's unpopular and destructive industrial relations laws. The lunchtime protest and barbecue were organised by the Deakin community and Your Rights at Work campaign group, which has been raising awareness and campaigning in the area against the anti-worker laws.

Deakin is a marginal federal seat and Your Rights at Work is campaigning to have Baressi voted out at the next federal election. The protest was joined by members of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF), the Health and Community Services Union, and the Australian Services Union, as well as some students from the local Croydon TAFE campus.

Speakers included local residents, ANF state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick, ETU state secretary Dean Mighell and local workers who had been sacked as a result of Work Choices.

The preselected ALP candidate for Deakin, ETU member Mike Symon, told protesters about the devastating impact that Work Choices is having on the local community. Rally chair and Your Rights at Work campaign organiser Lisa Cargill informed the protesters that more than 4000 signatures had been collected calling on Baressi to make himself available for a debate on the IR laws. A delegation tried to present the petitions to Baressi but his office doors were locked.

On the same day about 100 people rallied outside the Hobart office of the Industrial Relations Commission. "Two thousand and six was for Work Choices, in 2007 it is our choice", Simon Cocker, secretary of Unions Tasmania, told the rally, referring to the campaign to oust the Howard government. Workers from a range of unions, holding "Your Rights at Work" placards, received a barrage of supporting honks from passing drivers.

A rally was held simultaneously outside Liberal MP Mark Baker's office in Burnie. Tom Lynch, state secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, said that more than 10,000 Tasmanians had been forced onto Australian Workplace Agreements (individual contracts) in the past year. Two-thirds of those had removed leave and penalty payments, he said, and half had reduced shift loadings.

In Launceston on March 26, about 40 people gathered to unveil a Your Rights at Work banner and conduct a ceremonial burning of the Work Choices legislation.