‘Unlawful’ May Day march draws hundreds in Wollongong

May 13, 2017

Unionists and their supporters defied a police ban on this year’s traditional May Day march with a militant march and rally of some 500 unionists and their supporters through the city’s streets on May 6.

An obstructive Wollongong City Council had blocked police approval and demanded a hefty fee for private security services.

South Coast working class icon and veteran class fighter, 95-year-old Fred Moore, proudly marched at the front. He has never missed a May Day march since his first in 1932.

“This is not the first time we’ve stood up to the police in a May Day march," Moore told Green Left Weekly. “The police attacked our May Day marches in the 1920s, 1930s and again in 1949 during the coalminers' strike.

"But just as we saw today, when workers turn out in our numbers, the police can't do much about it. When the workers are on the street that's where the fight is won.”

Another highlight was hearing from Dave McLachlan, a CFMEU delegate at the Appin coal-mining company, South 32, who was sacked for leading an “undie protest”.

Miners at Appin’s South32 wore just their underwear for 10 minutes on March 7 to highlight the companies' poor supply of work clothes and a delay of more than a year in providing a promised laundry service.

Six weeks later, McLachlan, who was the CFMEU’s Appin Colliery lodge president, was sacked. A giant pair of undies was carried in the march.

“The sacking of Dave McLachlan is outrageous,” CFMEU national president, Mining and Energy Division Tony Maher said. “This will come back to haunt the employers. The campaign will continue around the country until he is reinstated.

“The whole industrial system of this country is broken. The union movement’s main project for the rest of this federal government’s term has to be a major campaign to get rid of these repressive laws. And we have to fight to get rid of this government. Save Dave.”

Other speakers included health professionals, who condemned the NSW Coalition government’s moves to privatise hospitals and other health facilities in the Illawarra; and journalist Marcus Strom, who slammed Fairfax Media for its plans to sack journalists and other workers at its main newspaper offices in the capital cities.

In Sydney, one of the largest May Day marches in recent years drew about 3000 unionists and political groups to Hyde Park on May 7 around the theme “March for Equality and Your Rights at Work”.

Attacks on penalty rates and on maritime workers at Patrick’s Port Botany terminal, as well as the privatisation of the sexual assault counselling service, were among the issues highlighted. Others focused on Aboriginal rights and the Palestinian political prisoners’ hunger strike.

At Price Alfred Park, a Family Fun Day featured live music, including the Urban Guerillas, food, entertainment and children’s activities.

More photos of the march are here.

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