About 50 local residents at a community forum in Buranda collected money and passed a resolution supporting the 107 West Australian construction workers facing individual fines of up to $28,600 for going on strike to defend a union delegate.
This collection and resolution was part of a forum organised by the WorkLife group against the Federal government’s WorkChoice legislation. The forum heard a range of speakers criticizing the “anti-worker” legislation.
Professor David Peetz from Griffith University dealt with some of the “pork pies” in the government’s “tax payer funded advertising campaign”. One claim was that award conditions would be “protected by law”.
David told the forum that, “every AWA [individual contract] got rid of at least one award condition” while “63% of AWAs abolished penalty rates totally, 64% abolished annual leave loading, 52% abolished shift loading; 51% abolished overtime pay while another 31% reduced overtime pay”.
David also looked at the claim that the unfair dismissal laws were “job destroying”. David told the forum that immediately following the introducion of the unfair dismissal laws in 1994, employment growth was at 2.41%, while employment growth following their abolition was 2.03%. “We had more employment growth after the laws were introduced than when they were abolished,” he told the forum.
Brad Emerson, an EFTPOS technician, told the forum of his personal story of bullying and harassment by a previous employer, how he was “made redundant” while on leave, and how the new laws failed to protect his rights.
Jorgen Gullestrup from the plumbers’ union told the forum of some of the difficulties his union faced in organizing in the construction industry, including the Building Industry Task Force, which had the power to jail workers for non co-operation.
Angela Ballard from the Social Action Office looked at how the laws interfaced with the community welfare sector. She warned that the WorkChoices legislation was “a bit like sun baking on a lovely Queensland day. You don’t know you’re burnt until the sun goes down and down the track the cancer sets in”.
The forum was organised by WorkLife, a coalition of people aiming to restore the balance between life and work.
An organiser said that “Some of the key activists in Worklife saw it as a starting point and see the campaign as being a long campaign.”
WorkLife will be holding its next community forum at the Brook Hotel, Osborne Road, Mitchelton, at 1pm on the 25th November. Sharan Burrow, the ACTU President, will be speaking at this forum.
For more information contact:
Mark Gillespie on 3891 5385
Ross Gwyther on 0408 782 983.