Alex Bainbridge, Sydney
Sixty unionists and their supporters gathered to defend specialised maintenance workers at the Sydney Opera House on February 24. The protest was directed against a new anti-union contractor who has refused employment to the union delegate and an injured worker who had returned to work on light duties. The other workers have been offered AWAs (individual contracts) that impose a pay cut in excess of $15,000 per year.
The workers are covered by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. Other unions represented at the demonstration included the Maritime Union of Australia, the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union, the Community and Public Sector Union and the Australian Nursing Federation. The Socialist Alliance and several smaller socialist groups also came to offer solidarity.
Union organisers repeatedly pointed out that the Howard government's anti-union laws would make it easier for bosses to treat workers with the contempt shown by the Opera House maintenance contractor. Bosses are already gearing up to use the laws, the protest was told.
The state Labor government also came under fire for awarding the maintenance contract to a known anti-union company without any guarantees to protect workers' conditions.
The injured worker who has been denied employment spoke to the crowd. He had worked at the Opera House for more than two years, was injured at work, received workers' compensation and returned to work on light duties. Other workers had worked for more than 20 years at the Opera House including at least one who had worked continuously since the Opera House opened.
Another demonstration in the continuing campaign will be held at 5.30pm on March 1 at the Opera House.
From Green Left Weekly, March 1, 2006.
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