Unionists and students present protest petition

August 27, 1997

Unionists and students present protest petition

By Earl Henderson

MELBOURNE <<197> Members of the Australian Education Union (AEU) and community supporters set up a protest information booth outside Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE's open day on August 21.

The highly visible booth, adorned with placards and signs, remained in place from 11am to 12.30pm, when the City of Darebin officers ordered it removed.

Alison Thorne, one of the protest organisers, said, "Darebin Council is guilty of double standards. NMIT had a large sandwich board placed prominently on the footpath. At the same time that residents are fighting to win back the right to elect their council, the apparatus of local government has been used in a politically partisan way to shut workers up."

The protest solicited support for the Reinstate the Northern Three Campaign — established after three permanent teachers and union activists were retrenched in April and replaced by low-paid casual staff.

The campaign is demanding an end to discrimination at the institute, reinstatement for former teachers who want their jobs back and an end to management's union-busting campaign against all unions, including the student union.

One hundred and sixty visitors to the open day signed the campaign petition, and many visitors took stickers which characterise Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE as "a union-busting company".

Student activists also collected contact details from potential students who are keen to build an independent student union.

A speak-out at 1pm announced that the campaign committee had set a goal to collect 1000 signatures on the petition by open day, and had collected 1400.

Delia Maxwell from the AEU sub-branch and Earl Henderson from the student union presented the petition to Norm Shearer, deputy director of the institute. Shearer accepted the petition and then said that he had been instructed to throw the petitions in the rubbish bin.

The AEU is lodging an equal opportunity complaint on behalf of Thorne, one of the teachers seeking reinstatement. The union is also pursuing the discriminatory treatment of former sub-branch secretary Barbara Morgan, whose contract was not renewed mid-way through 1996, despite her long service and excellent performance.

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