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Issue #1729      May 4, 2016

May Day Roundup

In Queensland, the CPA participated in May Day marches in Toowoomba, Ipswich and on the Gold Coast over the weekend and on Monday in the big march in Brisbane. Being on the eve of an extremely important federal election the trade union movement was out in force along with the Greens, the ALP, left parties and other groups and individuals.

For some younger members it was their first May Day march. They rallied to the task, distributing Guardians and the Party’s May Day leaflet.

Sydney. (Photo: Anna Pha)

In Sydney somewhere between 5,000 to 6,000 people marched from Belmore Park to Victoria Park on Sunday, waving thousands of brightly coloured union flags. The CPA had a good contingent with large banners, including one produced by the Women’s Collective.

The main issues covered by speakers were penalty rates, the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation and Gonski funding. Denis McNamara, a CFMEU site delegate, spoke passionately about the ABCC. He stood on the platform with his two young children, saying how their father could go to jail if he refused to tell the ABCC what other workers had said at a union meeting.

The Trade Union Choir entertained everyone with rousing songs of struggle and unionism. On the Saturday night, the CPA and the Lebanese Communist Party in Sydney jointly hosted a successful May Day Toast with speakers from a number of other organisations.

“Long Live May Day” – Fremantle WA

Western Australian workers are facing unprecedented attacks on their wages, working conditions, families and communities. May Day was a time for a show of strength and solidarity by the union movement for workers, their families and communities.

Photo: Vinnie Molina

Over 4,000 people started the day listening to speeches before setting off on the march through Fremantle. Meredith Hammat, Unions WA secretary started the day recognising the 70th anniversary of the Pilbara pastoral workers who remained on strike for three years over the treatment of Aboriginal workers who were paid in tea, flour, sugar and tobacco, not cash like white pastoral station workers.

Eight hundred Indigenous workers went on strike backed by the solidarity of unions, churches and other organisations including the Communist Party until they won the right to paid in cash and other important gains.

Ms Hammat spoke about the shared values of unions, community organisations and some political parties and contrasted with those who would try to weaken our resolve, diminish our achievements and muddle what we are trying to do.

Hammat said the union movement is the biggest social movement in the country, a point she repeated at the May Day Toast organised by the Community Union Defence League, CUDL, following the March. “We are bigger than the membership of all political parties, all AFL football clubs and Get Up!” added Ms Hammat about the strength and size of the union movement.

Organised labour is about fighting for all Australians to be able to enjoy a decent society with access to publicly funded health care and education. With a federal election coming up – to be followed by a state election in March 2017, Ms Hammat said, “We need to elect governments that will promote the values of ordinary working people”. Unions, she noted, give voice to the issues of working people of this state.

The CPA WA branch marched in numbers for workers rights, the right to strike and said NO to the reintroduction of the ABCC. A Party stall was held where several hundred Guardians, leaflets and other materials were distributed.

After the march the CUDL-WA hosted the traditional May Day toast at the Navy Club in Fremantle where a full line-up of union and community toasters celebrated May Day.

Speakers included Meredith Hammat; Chris Browne, ALP candidate for Fremantle; Mick Buchan, CFMEUWA secretary; Carmelita Baltazar, Migrante WA; Tawa Harris, community activist Section 501; Rory Lambert, CPSU organiser; Christopher Crouch, WA Communist candidate for the Senate; Christy Cain, MUAWA secretary; and Elizabeth Hulm, CUDL-WA. The event was chaired by CFMEU organiser Darren Roberts who recently moved to WA stepping down from his long held role as President of the SA May Day committee.

The annual Spanner award was presented to Darren on behalf of the SA May Day committee in recognition for his hard work in the fight for a better world and contributions over many years.

Long Live May Day!

“Speak out, fight back” – Adelaide SA

Adelaide’s May Day march was well supported by trade unions, political parties and community groups. The slogan “Stand up, speak out, fight back” was taken up by people with a number of burning issues including trade union rights, poverty, refugee rights and the proposal to locate a nuclear waste dump in the state. The Party had a good presence at the march and its stall attracted a lot of interest again this year.

Photo: Fernando M. Gonçalves

Kaurna elder Auntie Josie Agius’ name was added to the Workers Memorial this year and her contribution to the Port Adelaide community was recognised by speakers at a well attended ceremony at Black Diamond Corner. The CPA’s SA State President Michael Perth spoke to the gathering at the Semaphore Workers Club about the significance of the centenary of the Easter Uprising in Ireland and the role of women in it. The hammer and sickle and the flag of the Irish Citizens’ Army flew from the flagpole at the front of the Club for May Day.

The speakers at the May Day dinner were inspired choices. Hannah Matthewson was one of the 97 Hutchison’s wharfies sacked by text in 2015. Her speech, “Sacked by text, what happened next?”, was a moving account of a long struggle capped by victory. Wil Stracke is a key part of the very successful Victoria Trades Hall Council campaigns team. Her presentation, “One term Liberal governments, how we make it happen”, fired up the crowd and the singing of Solidarity Forever nearly lifted the roof this year. The annual Spanner Award for services to May Day went to former SA May Day Collective President Darren Roberts, who now lives in Perth. Messages were sent between May Day events in SA and WA to honour this year’s recipient.

Next article – Justice call

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