By Nick D.
The May Day rally – actually held on May 1st this year – saw a turnout of roughly 5,000 people in Sydney. Workers gathered at Belmore Park in Central Sydney before marching up Castlereagh Street to Hyde Park.
The largest union mobilisation was by the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) whose members walked off several sites across the city. The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) – which completely closed Port Botany – as well as the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), United Workers Union (UWU) and NSW Plumbers Union all had strong contingents.
Almost every trade union in NSW attended the rally, including the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU), Australian Services Union (ASU), Teachers Federation, Independent Education Union (IEU), Nurses and Midwives Association, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU).
It appeared that some right-wing unions – like the Health Services Union (HSU) and Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) – did not bother showing up.
After the march, six speakers – all from the left-wing of the NSW union movement – addressed the rally at Hyde Park. Common themes from the speakers included holding the Labor Governments to account, climate action and the anti-war movement.
Secretary of the NSW CFMEU Darren Greenfield called on the Federal and NSW Labor Governments to immediately scrap anti-worker laws and bodies including the Fair Work Commission and Fair Work Ombudsman. ETU Secretary of NSW Allen Hicks echoed these demands and also called on NSW Labor to scrap the 2022 anti-protest laws. He said:
“Protests are what made society. Workers [and] communities having the ability to walk off the job, to walk into the street, to protests against injustice…on international workers day, I ask Chris Minns and the newly elected Labor Government to repeal the anti-protest laws and do it immediately!”
Both Unions NSW Vice Secretary Vanessa Seagrove and MUA Sydney Branch Secretary Paul Keating highlighted climate action and the need to fight AUKUS. Seagrove expressed the NSW union movement’s solidarity with the Gomeroi people’s struggle against the Santos coal seam gas mining operation in Pillaga/Narrabri.
She also promoted the South Coast Labour Council’s May Day rally at Port Kembla on Saturday 6 May, calling on Port Kembla to become a hub for renewable energy jobs. Keating emphasised the slogan “peace is union business!” and highlighted the cost of the AUKUS deal:
“Nuclear subs are going to cost us – the working class – between three to four hundred billion dollars. It’s going to be ripped out of our education system, our health system, the NDIS and our social welfare system. Everything we’ve fought for generations to build dignity for ourselves and our communities.”
UWU delegate and member of Bayan Australia Shanaya Vargas spoke about the struggle of Filipino workers in Australia as well as the situation for workers and labor activists in the Philippines:
“The effects of the [economic [crisis] are even more compounded in the Global South. In the Philippines for example, hunger and poverty have become so normalised that half of the population has experienced it at least once. For migrant Filipinos like me, it is these instances that that push most of us away from our homelands, away from our families in order to make a living.”
Vargas also spoke out against war and the role of Australian imperialism in the Philippines:
“…the Australian government has continuously funded military aggression in the countryside and enabled the ongoing humanitarian crisis. The Australian government also provided the so-called technical assistance to the Philippines counter-terrorism law… We call on the Australian government to stop supporting wars and military aggression in the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific as a whole”.
It was perhaps a symptom of the fragmented far-left in Australia that no political organisation had a contingent of more than thirty members. The largest organised contingents were of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), Socialist Alternative and Solidarity.
The CPA appear to have recruited quite a few young people, SAlt continued their ‘Red Bloc’ formation with a banner reading “workers of the world Unite!”, while Solidarity emphasised the anti-AUKUS campaign with their main banner “fund climate action not war!”
There were some other far-left groups present – some selling their materials, handing out pamphlets and displaying various slogans. This includes Socialist Alliance, the Communist Party of Australia Marxist Leninist (CPA-ML), the Spartacists – now composed of two small grouplets following recent a split – and others.