Socialist Worker

Australian workers protest at new labour laws

by Jarvis Ryan
Issue No. 2008

More than 300,000 workers took to the streets of Australia's cities and towns on Wednesday 28 June to protest new industrial relations laws.

It was the latest round of protests by unions against the conservative government of John Howard, which introduced laws earlier this year making it easier for bosses to sack workers, cut wages and restrict union activities.

Of particular concern to unions is the promotion of individual contracts ahead of union-negotiated agreements. There have been a number of high-profile cases of workers being forced to sign individual contracts which slash their pay and conditions.

The laws are massively unpopular. Even people who voted for the government are angry that the Tories said nothing about their intentions before the last election.

Child care worker Jane Lee lost her job just days after the new laws came into effect. She told a rally of 40,000 in Sydney: 'I voted for Mr Howard's party at the last election, but I did not vote for him to attack my work rights or attack the work rights of the other people who work in child care with me.'

The union movement has vowed to make the laws a decisive issue in next year's election. The campaign received a boost recently when the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Kim Beazley, vowed to abolish individual contracts if elected.

More rallies are planned later in the year.

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Article information

Sat 8 Jul 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2008
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