Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Australian Unions Strike over State Reform Bid

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Australian Unions Strike over State Reform Bid

Article excerpt

ABOUT 100,000 people shut down the center of Melbourne Nov. 10 in protest against the radical industrial reforms of newly elected Victoria State Premier Jeff Kennett. The demonstration was said to be the largest since the Vietnam War, and thousands more participated in smaller rallies in cities and towns across Victoria.

In mid-October, the Liberal-National Party coalition's Kennett won a landslide victory over Labor, promising great changes in industrial relations but vowing that no worker would be made worse off.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions joined with the Trades Hall Council to call this state-wide strike two weeks later after Mr. Kennett presented his sudden hard-line industrial relations agenda to Parliament.

Kennett's agenda included:

* A decision to dump the 17.5 percent bonus that workers get on top of holiday pay, in recompense for lost overtime. And workers would no longer get extra "penalty" pay for working weekends.

* Sweeping anti-strike legislation, limiting industrial actions to five days and only after a secret ballot. Pickets would be limited to six workers, and unions that disobey would be hit with hefty fines. …

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