By Nick Everett
BRISBANE — Several thousand trade unionists are expected to rally in Brisbane's King George Square on March 4 in support of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).
The rally, to commence at noon, has been called by the Queensland branch of the ACTU to boost solidarity with the maritime workers and oppose the union-busting tactics of the Howard government and the National Farmers Federation.
A planning meeting, held at the ACTU (Queensland) office on February 25, discussed how to make the rally a success. Chaired by ACTU branch's assistant secretary, Grace Grace, the meeting was attended by rank-and-file members of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) and the Australian Services Union, the education officer for the National Union of Students (Queensland), members of the Democratic Socialist Party and the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, and a large number of MUA members and officials.
MUA branch secretary Mick Carr described the Coalition government's attack on his union as part of a "broad, general program of austerity". He noted that maritime workers were amongst, and stood by, a range of targets the Coalition had in its sights, including young people, single mothers and indigenous people.
"The attacks on the MUA, if successful, will undoubtedly flow on to other trade unions", he said, adding that workers could expect that the re-election of a Howard/Reith government would likely result in a new wave of anti-union laws.
Col Davies from the MUA explained that the union was looking for the largest possible support for the March 4 rally, with a range of solidarity meetings being planned. These include a meeting at the University of Queensland on March 3 sponsored the UQ Resistance Club and NUS (Queensland) which aims to draw students into the campaign to defend the MUA.
At the meeting, a statement calling on the ACTU and its state and regional affiliates to boost solidarity with the MUA was distributed by the Democratic Socialist Party (see page 5).
Despite a number of requests from participants for an ongoing committee to continue the campaign after the March 4 rally, Grace said that the decision was not one for the meeting, but for the ACTU state executive to make. Grace also informed the meeting that while the ACTU did not oppose a march following the rally, it considered the organising of the march would be more appropriately handled by the MUA than a broader coalition.
Volunteers are needed to help distribute leaflets in the city from 6.30am on March 4. For more information, telephone the MUA on 3831 0177 or the Democratic Socialists on 3254 0565.
[Nick Everett is a CPSU delegate.]