BY LAURA COX
ROCKHAMPTON — Almost 3000 spirited protesters marched through the CBD on March 2, in support of the 1350 workers who lost their jobs when Consolidated Meat Group (CMG) closed the Lakes Creek abattoir in mid-January. Mounting frustration by the workers and their families led the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU) to call for mass public support.
Meatworker Krystine Tranburg told Green Left Weekly: "The support from people was just incredible, people came from as far as Blackwater, Moranbah and Biloela. We never expected nearly 3000 people."
Months of unemployment and faltering negotiations between CMG and the AMIEU have taken their toll on the workers. The AMIEU is demanding the re-opening of the plant and the reinstatement of the workers without massive cuts to pay and conditions.
Workers, academics from the University of Central Queensland, left-wing activists, small-business owners and representatives from numerous unions — including the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, all converged on Easy Street for the rally before marching across the Fitzroy River Bridge to Stapleton Park.
Kirsten Livermore, ALP MP for Capricornia, briefly addressed the rally. But the biggest response from the crowd came as AMIEU representatives Ross Richardson and Brian Crawford spoke. Condemning corporate misers with tight purse strings, Richardson and Turner pointed out that it is the labour of workers which has enabled CMG owner Kerry Packer to become ridiculously wealthy.
Both also gave personal accounts of the incredible financial and emotional strain meatworkers and their families have been placed under. Many workers have been forced to leave the city — and their homes — in search of a secure job.
Sympathetic and encouraging letters to the workers, penned by workers in the mining industry, were read out. Like the diverse composition of the rally, this action highlighted the support the meatworkers have among workers in other industries — support that will be vital in winning the meatworker's battle.
The mass sackings and CMG's closure, while hitting the meatworkers hardest, have caused a negative chain reaction in Rockhampton. The workers' fight is the entire community's fight, and the march and rally was a major step in gaining public involvement and support. This process must be continued — and quickly.
From Green Left Weekly, March 13, 2002.
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