The Guardian 8 June, 2005

"We will fight"

Richard Titelius

The aim of the June 1 meeting of unions at the Perth Convention Centre was to ensure that the campaign message was put clearly and emphatically to those unionists who are in direct contact with the workers the elected workplace union representatives.

Approximately two thousand delegates, paid union officials and activists filled the convention centre from a large cross section of the union movement a good sign that this campaign was reaching out to every corner of the union movement in the state.

Unions WA Secretary, Dave Robinson, stated that this was going to be a campaign which was not going to be won after one or two rallies or mass demonstrations, but would take years. He emphasised the importance of the union movement building links to the community and involving all sectors of society and that it must not waiver in its resolve, otherwise everything that had been gained in struggles by workers and their families over the last 100 years would be lost.

"There is no alternative to this fight, and fight we will!"

Sam Wainwright, a union representative from the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) kicked off the discussion by reminding workers of the long hard battle when Patrick Stevedores, in collusion with the Howard government, tried to destroy the MUA.

"It's going to be wave after wave [of protest] that sinks Howard and his ship of fools."

Keith Traynor, a safety inspector with Worksafe and a former union official, reminded his fellow unionists that when there are attacks on wages and working conditions, one of the first conditions to be hit is occupational health and safety.

A representative from the National Union of Students, which is currently involved in a campaign to thwart the Howard government's move to introduce Voluntary Student Unionism, was at the Convention Centre in solidarity with her lecturers and support staff who faced attacks on their working conditions through the forced introduction of AWAs, the move to re-introduce casual and part time staff and the further reduction of research and university courses.

A delegate from the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers' Union, who works in a call centre where workers have only recently won the right to have union representation, spoke of the number of her fellow workers who weren't able to attend but who urged her to put their concerns to the meeting.

Lisa Baker, the representative from WACOSS (WA Council of Social Services) addressed the meeting on the impact which the Welfare to Work proposals of the Federal Treasurer Peter Costello and John Howard would have on the vulnerable, sick and disabled in the community.

The Assistant Secretary of Unions WA, Janine Freeman, closed the meeting by pointing the way forward for unions with actions that everyone can do: lobby our Federal politicians, engage with our workmates, family, friends, neighbours, people we catch public transport with and sporting, children and church activities.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the delegates assembled under their respective banners and flags and marched in a colourful and loud display of union resolve and solidarity to the offices of the Employee Advocate and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.

The march was also in support of the tertiary education and TAFE sector workers whose working conditions are under attack by Education Minister Brendan Nelson's proposal to make funding conditional to them offering AWAs to all their employees.

The meeting and march were a success and an emphatic call by the union movement to the working people of this state. They will be back on June 30 for a public rally at the Perth Cultural Centre as part of the National Week of Action planned for later this month.

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