Over 100,000 people marched today in Melbourne in support of the Maritime Union of Australia and against the federal governments anti-union Industrial Relations laws.
The rally was attended by unionists, community activists, and people concerned with the attacks on unionism in this country.
There were grandmothers, babies in prams, office workers, cleaners, firefighters, construction workers, students, teachers, nurses, and others in attendance.
Police estimated the crowd at more than 75,000 people but Union estimates say there were close to 120,000 people.
People gathered outside Trades Hall (known as the Workers Parliament) on the corner of Lygon Street and Victoria Street Carlton at 10am. The crowd had slowly built and occupied the intersection, and extended up Lygon street for some distance, down Russell Street, and both ways down Victoria Street.
Messages of support were heard from the British Trade Union Congress general secretary John Monks, who said British trade unionists had been the subject of similar attacks by the former government of Margaret Thatcher. No mention was made of the plight of the Liverpool Dockers, who many believe were sold out by their union leaders in their two year long battle on the docks of Liverpool.
The Ethnic Communities Council of Australia pledged its continuing support to maritime workers on behalf of 165 ethnic organisations.
The march then left Trades Hall with Patrick wharfies leading.
The day was fine and mild - an excellent day for a protest march.
People were exuberant about being part of such a large rally and angry at the government for its duplicity in the attempted dismissal of Patrick workers.
The march wound its way down Russell Street, La Trobe street, and down the length of Swanston walk to the corner of Finders Street, outside Flinders Street Station, where a stage had been set up.
A minute of silence was observed by the rally for Fred Brock, a retired wharfie who died during this struggle. Fred was visiting Japan at the time of the lockout at Webb Dock in late January. He appealed to his fellow dockers in Japan for their support of the Maritime Union against the attacks of Patrick, the Federal Government, and the National Farmers Federation. On April 17, Fred collapsed after giving a speech and died shortly after. The Japanese dockers and seamen have donated money to the defence fund of the Maritime Union and have given strong support. The Australian embassy was subject to a protest with that well known chant "MUA HERE TO STAY".
The speeches outside Flinders Street Station were broadcast live on Community Radio Station, 3CR.
Martin Kingham, president of the Victorian Trades Hall Council addressed the rally saying Melbourne's most famous had not seen such numbers since the anti Vietnam war protest of the 1970's. He thanked the community support against the conservative forces in Australia attempt to destroy the union movement. "Well, we have demonstrated just how determined we are today to protect the rights of working people in this country," Mr Kingham said.
Jennie George, President of the ACTU, said "Not only are we going to see it through on the waterfront, but this is going to be the beginning of a long campaign leading up to the election to make sure that John Howard and Peter Reith are thrown out of Government."
Derek Corrigan (Chris Corrigan's brother), spoke against the workplace Relations Act: "Draconian legislation is still there, so if you're back in your workplace and listening to this think about it. This is not about the MUA, this is about every worker."
The crowd was invited back to the Old ballroom in Trades Hall to celebrate the reinstatement of Patrick Wharfies.
Fight Howard's Industrial Relations Laws
Stop Work Rally
10 am 6 May at Trades Hall
From the Trades Hall Leaflet:
© Takver. All Rights reserved except for nonprofit, union or educational use, please credit source.