The union movement warned the Government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott that it was on borrowed time
Australia’s trade unions sent a thundering message of dissent against the national conservative Coalition Government’s anti-worker agenda on March 4 when over 100,000 people loudly marched through streets across the nation.
The union movement warned the Government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott that it was on borrowed time.
Dozens of unions vowed to build on community anger over Abbott’s attacks on union rights, penalty rates for extra hours, the minimum wage, the universal health system and education for which his government has no electoral mandate.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions particularly targeted a government-sanctioned inquiry into the nation’s industrial system by the notoriously pro-business Productivity Commission, which it believes is a “Trojan horse” to justify future rolling back of collective bargaining and other rights.
The protests blocked streets in 13 major cities and regional centres, as the ACTU signaled it would marshal the power of rank and file unionists to target marginal Coalition seats before next year’s federal election.
It flows from electoral successes in the states of Victoria and Queensland, where trade union community campaigning was instrumental in turfing out conservative governments after one term. The swing in Queensland to Labor was of historic, record proportions.
Some of the biggest March 4 marches were in Melbourne – 50,000 people – and across Queensland, where the state election results reflected lingering, simmering public anger at the Abbott Government as unemployment rises and economic growth stagnates.
In Sydney more than 20,000 unionists marched.
The unions’ Day of Action came only a few weeks after the Prime Minister barely survived a move to have an open vote on his leadership among his own MPs, panicking at polls putting them far behind the Labor Opposition.
ACTU National Secretary Dave Oliver told marchers: “We’re going to fight them in the workplaces, in the community, at the ballot box and we are going to win.
“The community does not want to see the Americanisation of our society with growing inequality and an increase in the number of working poor.”
The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union has been particularly critical over the Government’s failure to support industry as most advanced nations do, with its abandonment of the auto industry a major factor in Ford, GM and Toyota phasing out car making with the loss of at least 50,000 jobs.
“The huge numbers and loud voices here on the march are an expression of the anger people feel towards Tony Abbott, their lack of trust over the secrecy behind so many Coalition Government measures,”
“No one voted for $100,000 university degrees, the erosion of Medicare or for a Productivity Commission inquiry to cut back penalty rates and scrap the minimum wage.”
The anger of shipbuilders who marched in Melbourne later spilled into the city’s affluent eastern suburbs where Defence Minister Kevin Andrews has his electorate office.
The Abbott Government has followed it’s failure to help auto workers with major offshoring of crucial navy shipbuilding, sending two new supply ships to be built overseas and putting local shipyards in peril.
It is feared the Government will abandon it’s promise to build the next generation of Australia’s submarines – a mammoth, $20 billion project – at home and is leaning towards a deal with japan.
About 100 members from shipbuilder BAE in Williamstown whose jobs are at dire risk protested on the footpath outside the minister’s office.
AMWU Assistant National Secretary Glenn Thompson said they had been snubbed for months by this minister, who would not acknowledge that new defence contracts are desperately needed to avoid mass job losses in Victorian and NSW shipyards.
“We can’t allow jobs to bleed out of the Industry, we need the skills for our industry and we will tie this into to directly campaigning in vulnerable Coalition seats,” he said.