Australian Council of Trade Unions

May Day this year, held on May 6 in Sydney, was the strongest, most powerful and largest May Day I have marched in for years.

I joined with dozens of union contingents comprising thousands of workers in Sydney, chanting “The workers united will never be defeated” and “What do we want? The right to strike.”

In the biggest union mobilisation in Australia in more than a decade, up to 120,000 unionists and supporters descended on the streets of Melbourne on May 9.

The protest was organised as part of the Change the Rules campaign. The rally followed a mass delegates meeting in April and was the conclusion of nearly a fortnight of union actions across the country to launch the campaign.

A final version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal, which will reduce tariffs and other trade barriers between 11 countries in Asia and Latin America that amount to 13% of global GDP, was released on February 21.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) launched its national boycott campaign against Streets ice cream products on October 29, urging people to “stand up for fairness and commit to a Streets-Free Summer”.

AMWU NSW secretary Steve Murphy said the workers had no choice but to call for a boycott after Streets “hit the nuclear option”.

The misnamed Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) decision on February 23 to cut penalty rates will hit hundreds of thousands of casual and part-time workers. But women will fare worse because the gender pay gap continues.

The employer’s argument, that penalty rates prevent them from hiring and remaining open on Sundays, is disproved by the facts. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show that despite the mining boom slow down, the retail and hospitality sectors are booming.

The 2016-2017 budget aims to get the federal Coalition over the line on July 2, the expected double disillusion election date. Treasurer Scott Morrison's budget speech was a far cry from the last two “gloom and doom” budgets from Joe Hockey. But it contained significant cuts to essential services, health and education. Climate change didn't rate a mention. But the government confirmed its previously announced cut to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) which funds clean energy innovation.

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