Fighting for a fair go
By NADINE FISHER
PASSIONS were burning in the Tweed yesterday as worker turned out to show their solidarity in protest against the Federal Government's workplace relations reforms.
More than 700 people attended a gathering at the Coolangatta-Tweed Heads Golf Club and it was a similar story in Murwillumbah where another 700 also rallied to the cause.
Richmond MP Justine Elliot enthralled the golf club crowd with a lively speech about Labor's determination to fight to the death against the reforms. She pledged that once in control of Federal parliament, Labor would "kill the bill".
"We're not going to accept these reforms and our focus now is to encourage all the people here to spread the word to their family, friends and workmates," she said.
Speaking via a live hook-up on Sky television channel were people influential including Greg Combet (ACTU secretary), Sharan Burrow (ACTU president), Kim Beazley (Opposition leader), and many working Australian.
Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) state organiser for North Coast and Western NSW, Mick Lawler said these reforms were the start of "workforce police in every industry".
"These reforms are the greatest joke that has ever been put on in this country," he said. "And they're starting out by targeting the building industry."
Tweed Community Health social worker Liz Fallon attended the meeting because she was angry and upset about John Howard's planned reforms.
"What's going to happen to the people of Australia - the workers and their families," she said.
"I feel sick about it, especially for young workers who will have no options and no power.
"I'm a disabled worker and for me it's okay as I've got two degrees but other disabled workers are going to find it difficult to be given a fair go."
Tweed Centrelink staff member Adrian Hart said with the IR reforms pay and conditions of the Australian worker will be eroded away.
"The Federal Government doesn't realise the depth of feeling in Australian people in regard to these reforms - we will fight to retain our rights," he said.
Young mothers concerned for the workplace rights their children will inherit also attended the rally including Vicky Stewart, Leah Fieck and Katie Stillman.
Ms Stewart, said she felt encouraged to see so many people turn out for the protest and was sure John Howard would be on his way out at the next election.
"I'm still a New Zealand citizen and it's made me vow that by the next election I will be an Australian citizen and be able to vote," she said.
"Realistically these reforms leave workers with no bargaining power and no alternatives.
"I'm a nurse and I don't want to be told I have to work in theatre in the middle of the night for $20 an hour.
"I think it will be a cycle of the poor getting poorer."