By Dave Gosling
CANBERRA — On June 29, 11 unions marched from Parliament House to the ACT Legislative Assembly to protest against the ACT Liberal government's approach to enterprise bargaining for government workers.
The march was led by 175 uniformed firefighters from the United Firefighters Union. Nearly 1000 people filled Civic Square outside the assembly — the largest rally in Canberra this year. The two largest contingents were from the United Firefighters Union and the ACT government section of the Community and Public Sector Union.
Many unions called a three-hour stoppage for the rally, as enterprise bargaining allowed for protected industrial action. CFMEU members in Totalcare defied the Workplace Relations Act to join the strike. Totalcare workers are facing the destruction of their jobs as the government proposes to hire Totalcare's equipment — but not staff — out to a private contractor.
The rally was chaired by ACT Trades and Labor Council secretary Jeremy Pyner. At the rally, the firefighters' petition of 17,000 signatures for wage justice was presented to Labor MLA John Hargreaves. The ALP had a surprisingly small presence at the rally. Most union speakers did not call for a vote for Labor.
Chief Minister Kate Carnell and the Liberal/Independent government announced 450 job losses in the ACT public service in the recent ACT budget, and are pushing for non-union agreements and individual contracts in a huge number of enterprise bargaining negotiations.
Carnell, who recently scored a 16% pay rise, has offered firefighters no increase and has not allocated funds for pay rises for ACT government workers. The government plans to cut $1 million from Canberra Hospital after illegally channelling $27 million to the Bruce Stadium project.
Unions have pledged to step up an industrial campaign against the ACT government. Another rally is planned for August 26.