Debate in WA union struggle

August 20, 1997

Debate in WA union struggle

By Anthony Benbow

PERTH — Unions are discussing the "workers' embassy" established next to Parliament House in late April after more than 30,000 people demonstrated against the WA government's "third wave" of anti-union laws.

The embassy has been staffed around the clock, and has provided a focal point for unionists and the community wishing to support the campaign.

The site, which started with a caravan and portable barbecue, has now been landscaped, with a retaining wall, pergolas, seating, a paved barbecue area and a monument to the eight-hour day. It's also been named: "Solidarity Park".

At a delegates' meeting attended by around 200 people on August 14, TLC secretary Tony Cooke said that the continued success in the campaign required the freeing of resources currently tied up in maintaining the embassy.

He argued that Solidarity Park will continue to stand as a physical monument to the campaign and all that has been achieved, even if the embassy itself is disbanded.

Many delegates, particularly from construction unions, expressed concern, pointing out that the issue was not the structures of the embassy, but how they were used in the campaign.

Losing the focus provided by the embassy could be negative for the campaign, they argued, particularly with the resumption of parliament imminent and as criminal charges against unionists for defying the anti-union laws become more likely.

A decision was postponed. For now, the embassy remains fully staffed and operational.

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