Unions rally in country-wide push for demands

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Unions will use rallies attended by tens of thousands of workers across Australia to increase pressure on the Coalition government and Labor leader Bill Shorten to change federal workplace laws, including returning to industry bargaining.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said the rallies were “aimed ­directly” at the federal Coalition. “They are the ones that can do something about penalty rates being cut,’’ she said. “They can do something about the minimum wage … we want them to make a big change in direction.”

The rally organised in Melbourne brought the city centre to a halt, with marchers stretching nine blocks from Federation Square to the corner of La Trobe and Russell streets.

Union officials reported that 170,000 were in attendance, exceeding their pre-rally estimate of 150,000.

What do unions want?

  • Higher wages
  • Reversal of penalty rate cuts
  • Return to industry-wide bargaining
  • Increased minimum wage

“Militant union power”

Jobs and Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O’Dwyer said the rallies were a “show of militant union power” designed to remind Mr Shorten he should cave to union demands.

She said the rallies would “do nothing to increase wages” and the best way for workers to get pay rises was for the unemployment rate to fall. “It’s very clear that the militant unions are sending a very strong message to employers and the people that they employ right across this country,’’ she said. “They have said that they will clearly be in charge if Bill Shorten is given an opportunity to lead a government.”

More rallies are planned throughout October and November in Queensland, Tasmania and ACT.

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