By Anthony Brown
PERTH — Some 1500 people, mostly timber workers and families from the state's south-west, attended a rally in the city centre on January 30. The rally, organised by the pro-woodchipping Forest Protection Society, called for the immediate renewal of all woodchip licences, saying that jobs would be lost otherwise. The protesters then marched to Parliament House, where members of the Court Liberal government addressed the crowd.
The attitude might have seemed all one way from the speakers' platform, but on the ground it wasn't so clear. Rank and file activists from the state-based Construction, Mining, Energy, Timberyard, Sawmillers and Woodworkers union distributed a leaflet during the rally, arguing against the pro-woodchipping position of the Forestry division of the national Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.
The leaflet highlighted the hypocrisy of the state government and the timber companies, which have failed to act on jobs lost through restructuring.
The leaflet called for "more forests, more wood and more jobs" and for an industry based on plantations. While some people tore up the leaflets and abused the union activists handing them out, many read it or took it to read later.
The timber companies, Bunnings and Whittakers, provided transport for some of the workers attending, as well as drinks and other refreshments. Some workers said that they had been threatened with "not being allowed to return to work" if they did not attend the rally.