Alex Bainbridge

More than 500 Fire Brigade Employee Union members turned out for a mass meeting on February 22 to discuss the progress of their campaign for a decent wage increase. Five hundred on-duty members voted by fax. The NSW government’s offer of a 4% pay rise with loss of conditions was rejected by a vote of 1025 to two, with 25 abstentions. A further motion endorsing the union’s log of claims including a wage rise of between $218 and $354 over three years was approved by a similar margin.

During the war against Vietnam, it was not until 1970 that the US union movement took protest action in an organised manner. And even then, it was a pro-war demonstration called by New York’s Building Trades Council in support of President Richard Nixon. However anti-war unions responded to that demonstration — held on May 20 and drawing 50,000 workers (many of them paid to attend) — with a protest of their own. While it only drew half as many people, it was a significant milestone — it was the first time that US unions formally organised an anti-war demonstration.

The polling company Opinion Research Business (ORB) has released detailed data confirming that the death toll from the Iraq war has exceeded 1 million people — more than the total number killed in the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

Sydney Stop the War Coalition has confirmed that it will be organising an Australian tour of US Labor Against the War (USLAW) leader Kathy Black. The tour will be in the lead-up to the March 16 Palm Sunday rallies that will mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

To cries of “Barry’s back, Howard’s out”, sacked union delegate Barry Hemsworth marched through the gates of Botany Cranes on November 29 to reclaim his job after 441 days picketing outside the crane yard.

“We have a plan to withdraw from Iraq, while Mr Howard doesn’t” — with these words on October 14, ALP leader Kevin Rudd described the war on Iraq as one of five “critical areas where the difference [between Labor and the Coalition] couldn’t be clearer”. He then went on to virtually ignore the Iraq war throughout the rest of the election campaign.

The Sydney branch of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) hosted a function in support of Palm Island man Lex Wotton on October 7. Wotton is being targeted by state authorities for his role in protesting the death of Aboriginal man Mulrunji at the hands of police in November 2004.

“People before profits” was the message coming from the “rally for rights” organised by the Socialist Alliance in Newtown on November 9. The rally was addressed by Catholic priest Peter Maher, Your Rights At Work campaigner Michael Haines, three representatives from Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) and Greens candidate for Grayndler, Saeed Kahn.

The Socialist Alliance supports the struggle for democracy in Burma, and stands in solidarity with the democracy movement activists, political prisoners and exiles bravely defying its military dictatorship.

As preparation for APEC, the NSW Labor government made a list of every one of its tried and tested methods for suppressing dissent. Then it went away and thought up a few more! It used every measure it felt it could get away with — purchased a new water cannon, increased police powers, emptied jails — in order to intimidate people into not joining the September 8 “Stop Bush” protest.

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