Thousands of people rallied around the country on March 4 to protest against the federal government’s anti-worker laws.
Organised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the rallies protested against a range of government policies including cuts to wages and conditions, the deregulation of university fees, cuts to the ABC, and slashing unemployment benefits.
In Sydney, more than 10,000 workers protested outside NSW Parliament House. Thousands of building workers from the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU), including about 1500 building workers on the Barangaroo construction site, marched through the city and were the first to converge outside NSW Parliament House.
They were followed closely by the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, who had also taken stop work action, the Health Services Union, Electrical Trades Union, Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), Communications Electrical Plumbing Union, Australian Services Union, Transport Workers Union, National Tertiary Education Union, Public Service Association and other unions.
In Adelaide, a crowd of about 2500 union members and supporters gathered at Light Square to hear South Australian Unions Secretary Joe Szakacs and delegates from the United Firefighter Union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and Community and Public Sector Union.
News that CFMEU members had been threatened with $10,000 fines for attending the rally was roundly booed. The rally was chaired by Jamie Newlyn of the MUA who called for the defeat of the Coalition at the next federal election, but warned the Labor Party that they were on notice after their failure to get rid of Work Choices when they were in power.
In Melbourne, the Victorian Trades Hall Council estimated 50,000 people took part. Moreland City councillor and member of the Socialist Alliance Sue Bolton said: "It was great to see so many workers come out in defence or our rights today in Melbourne. There were thousands. For workers who went on strike, there are bosses planning to take retribution tomorrow. The union movement will need to back any worker targeted by their boss for going on strike today."
In Brisbane about 3000 unionists went to the 30-minute rally outside Parliament House. New Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk addressed the rally, announcing that she would repeal the Newman Government’s anti-union laws. The speakers came from a range of unions, including nurses, maritime, public sector, as well as Queensland Council of Unions, with most speakers opposing the attack on penalty rates.
In Newcastle more than 500 people – blue collar, white-collar, water front, educational and health workers – rallied at the Newcastle City Hall as part of the ACTU day of action. The meeting resolved to hold a demonstration one week before the state election. Newcastle Trades Hall Secretary Daniel Wallace described the proposal as a workers’ rally that would give voice to those workers facing attack from PM Tony Abbott and NSW Premier Mike Baird.