Union rally against IR laws – 30 June

Banner at Trades hall announcing rally

“Stop work and Rally” said the posters, and they did – certainly the largest protest on Melbourne’s streets since the anti-war march of 14 Feb 2003, and biggest union demonstration since the Kennett days.

Proceedings began according to tradition with speeches at Trades Hall, beginning with Mary Bluett for the education workers – today was their 10th birthday – and Lisa Fitzpatrick of the nurses. But the streets were already crowded long before, with the largest assembly of MFB workers anybody could remember seeing, massing further up Victoria Parade before joning the march with their magnificent banner. But the length of the march still took me unawares – it set off pretty much at the scheduled time of 10.30, and the tail end arrived at Bourke St at 11.38 – and the rest of Swanston St was then blocked as far as Flinders St station. By the time I got down to Flinders St via laneways the speeches – including an address by Federal ALP leader Kim Beazley – were just winding up, and I had met quite a few marchers who had evidently decided to go home rather than listen to him … (I overheard one saying he had been hoping to see him – Beazley – dragged off the truck.) That was also when the rain began to kick in.

A feature of this rally, like the big anti-war one, was the number and range of groups represented, including a large number from regional Victoria, and also the number of individuals who had taken the time to express their feelings through home-made placards.

At the major anti-VSU rally back in April, CFMEU leader Martin Kingham issued a challenge to students to support this rally, saying “Your fight is our fight”. I saw one group that had clearly answered the call, and there were obviously a lot of young people in the march, but surely room for improvement on that score.
[Other reports of the day originally referred to here, eg on Melbourne Indymedia and the Trades Hall website, have unfortunately since become unavailable.]

Peter Marshall and Mary Bluett

Peter Marshall, Secretary of the United Firefighters Union and President of VTHC, seen here with Mary Bluett of the education union, introduced the speakers

View over part of gathering in Lygon Street

Photo taken during the speeches outside Trades Hall – CPSU banners in the background

Even before the march set off the leading banner was well down Russell Street towards La Trobe Street. Health workers led the way:

Banner leading march - Stop the Attack on Workers Rights

Banner - Howard's Way = Less pay

One of many banners made for the occasion

Green triangles - End the Lies

Greens – and Democrats – were a visible presence

Banners of Socialist Alliance and Green Left Weekly

As also the Socialist Alliance

Students with banner - Stop VSU

As Martin Kingham said at student rally against VSU on 28 April ” Your fight is our fight”.

Anarchist banner - No War but the Class War

Another arm of the Left

Education unions, especially the NTEU, were a major component of the rally, along with construction workers and the health sector:

NTEU banner

As well as the representatives of the TCFUA there was also this reminder of a particularly vulnerable group – outworkers:

TCFUA banner - Sweatshops, Factories of the Future

Child's placard - John Howard as King of Hell

This telling message was carried by one of quite a few very young people on the march

Looking back up Swanston Street at about 11.05am

Looking back up Swanston Street at about 11.05am

Half an hour later

About 11.30am

Placard held by a child - The Howard workplace looks grim for me/

Another placard carried by a young marcher

John Howard depicted a rat - Parliament Needs De-Ratification

More Howard fans…

Banner of Council of Single Mothers and their Children

Another sector threatened by the legislation

Flinders Street intersection packed with protesters

The final speeches almost over – view from the steps of Flinders Street Station at 11.47am