News

Large turnouts at Labour Day marches

JOB security fears in Queensland's public sector have manifested in "larger than usual" Labour Day turnouts across the state.

As public servants sit on tenterhooks amid the LNP's plans to axe up to 30,000 staff on temporary contracts, Together secretary Alex Scott said members had a strong desire to have a voice at this year's rallies.

"We had a larger than usual turnout in Brisbane, but this has been reflected in various regional locations over the weekend - in Cairns, Townsville, Mackay and Rockhampton today and at Toowoomba, Ipswich and Bundaberg on Saturday," he said.

"It's an indication of the concerns in the public sector and a strong desire to have a voice in the changes currently occurring.

"It is bigger than the past couple of years but also, generally, union membership is on the rise in private and public sectors.

"There is a good feeling at today's march but there's certainly, with more than 30,000 of the state's 250,000 public servants on temporary contracts, a high level of concern about what that will mean, especially for people providing services at hospitals and schools.

"They want to serve the people of Queensland and they want to make sure the changes don't adversely affect their ability to deliver quality services to the Queensland community.

"We've seen significant growth in the past couple of years in public sector employment numbers, an extra 36,000 public sector workers in school and hospital systems.

"Growth in public sectors is linked to quality of services for Queensland which is what's really concerning our members.

"It's not just about job security but about going backwards in the quality of our hospital services and the education of our children."

In Central Queensland, hundreds celebrated worker victories, even as the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union remained locked in battle with mining giants.

CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth has been in the trenches pushing the union's fight against the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance which, on Thursday, will shut down its Norwich Park mine near Dysart.

From the Blackwater Labour Day march, Mr Smyth said the public holiday was the most important day of the year "for any worker, especially a union worker".

"It is great to be in a position where you work for workers' interests," he said.

"It was very well attended here in Blackwater by all the unions in town."

Brisbane Labour Day March chief marshall Tom Schulz said he estimated there were between 20,000 and 25,000 people in this year's march.

He said the 32 unions took more than 90 minutes to walk the route from the city to the exhibition showgrounds at Bowen Hills because of the number of people involved.

"This must be up there with some of the biggest crowds we've ever had," he said.

"Whether it's job security, cost of living, their future or a change of government, people are out today."

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released last month showed the number of trade union members in Australia increased by almost 50,000 in a year, but the proportion of the workforce remained steady at 18%.

The proportion of public sector employees in unions was 43% while private sector employees was 13%.

Topics:  labour day, unions



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