Workers stand united
By LEE McIVORlmcivor@gladstoneobserver.com.au
MORE than 5000 people converged on Ferguson Park racecourse yesterday but there wasn't a horse in sight. The only thing being taken for a ride, according to local workers, was them.
They gathered to vent their anger over the federal government's changes to workplace relations and emotions ran high when the ramifications were outlined.
At any mention of Prime Minister John Howard's name, the crowd yelled its opposition.
It was the largest meeting most had seen in Gladstone, which proportionately had the highest turnout in the state.
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) president Sharan Burrow addressed the crowd, saying the government was trying to strip away working conditions that had taken Australians 100 years to build.
Ms Burrow said there were five main issues that should worry all Australians. "These minimum conditions include the loss of unfair dismissal protections, the loss of the award safety nets, a cut in take-home pay and a fall in minimum wages, and finally the crackdown on unions and collective bargaining,'' she said.
Senator Joe Ludwig addressed the meeting stating the proposed legislation was not a reform of the system, rather a change for the worse.
"This legislation will have a disproportionate affect on women workers and our youth,'' he said.
"Sixteen-year-olds do not have any bargaining power. "What the government is doing is allowing employers to say to these young workers take it or leave it in terms of working conditions and pay.''
The rally also heard church leaders from every denomination roundly de-nounce the proposed legislation.
They spoke of a need for collaboration between all aspects of society and expressed their disappointment at the divisive nature of the proposed legisation.
Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union state organiser Terry Grieve told the rally the fight would be long and hard. "This is our country, our way of life and we're going to have to fight for it,'' he said.
Union members said they would organise a delegation to meet with Federal Member for Hinkler Paul Neville to discuss the effects of the proposed Industrial Relations legislation.