May Day: Unions call for anti-union, anti-protest laws to be scrapped

May 1, 2023
Sydney May Day march. Photo: Peter Boyle

Chants of “When I say union, you say power! Union! Power!” rang out through the city streets as more than 5000 unionists marched from Belmore Park to Hyde Park calling for “justice”, “a better future” and to “show the bosses we mean business” on May 1 for May Day.

The rally was led by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Plumbers and Pipe Trades Employees Union.

Contingents from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, National Tertiary Education Union, Retail and Fast Food Workers Union, United Workers Union and the Independent Education Union were prominent, as well as APHEDA, Workers for Climate Action and Sydney Anti-AUKUS Coalition.

Darren Greenfield, CFMEU New South Wales secretary, told the rally that unions had to hold governments to account. “We need to make sure that they are changing systems to suit workers, union members and unions.

“We still have laws in this state, industrial laws, around the ABCC [Australian Building and Construction Commission] … and we’re calling on Labor again today go get rid of them,” he said.

“There’s the ‘Fair Work Ombudsman’ … you have to be kidding me. Anything these bastards put in with the words ‘fair work’ is unfair. We’ve all learned over the last 12 years that these laws, these organisations … are anti-union and anti-worker.

“They are there to defeat unions, so we … don’t walk out, so we don’t protect our members, so we don’t fight for better wages and conditions: they need to go. They need to go now!

“We call on Albanese and the rest of his people to move now and get it done. We’re not waiting another year or two. We need it done now.”

Unions NSW assistant secretary Vanessa Seagrove called for change. “We’ve seen a number of unions go out in the lead-up to the state election [which] took action: these are the workers we rely on for the services that we depend on.”

She said nurses had every reason to go on strike “because there is no respect, and no dignity in the work of being a nurse: it doesn’t come home in your pay packet”.

“Now is the time when we can actually get [a] better [deal],” she said. “We’ve got to continue to work together as unions to fights for our rights and fight for a decent living and a decent pay.”

Paul Keating, MUA Sydney branch secretary, highlighted how important workers’ solidarity is and called for the anti-union and anti-protest laws to be scrapped. “We’ll continue to break their repressive laws until they remove them,” he said. “The federal Fair Work Act must go.”

ETU NSW & ACT secretary Allen Hicks called for a “united fight for a pathway from the fossil fuel industry to renewable projects, maintaining union-based, well-paid jobs with safe and secure conditions”. He called on NSW Labor Premier Chris Minns to repeal the draconian anti-protest laws.

Everyone was urged to attend the May Day march in Port Kembla on May 6 at 12noon in Wentworth Street to protest any plan to station nuclear submarines in that harbour.

Video: 2023 May Day march in Sydney demands Labor govts support workers' rights, climate action and peace. Green Left.

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