AGE NO BARRIER AT RALLY
By BELINDA SCOTT
CONCERN for the future of their children and grandchildren propelled pensioner couple Bill and Louise Jackson of Coffs Harbour to the Coffs Ex-Services Club yesterday.
The were there to watch a satellite telecast of the ACTU-organised protest in Melbourne against WorkChoices legislation, joining an estimated 450 people who packed the club's auditorium for the rally telecast.
Bill Jackson went to work in 1957, aged just 14. Louise was 13 when she started work.
They enjoyed long working lives, seeing dramatic improvements in working conditions. But they say today's workers are not informed enough.
"Conditions were very hard, very tough," Mr Jackson said. "They worked you until you dropped. After a while the unions got stronger and conditions got better ? there was no slave driving."
"I used to work for the plumbers and gas fitters' union at one time and I know how the young people were treated," Louise Jackson said. "The apprentices were sacked three or four months before their apprenticeship was up."
Nurse Debbie Borodin took time off to attend yesterday's rally and her 16-year-old daughter Hannah joined her for her first-ever protest. They said they had already seen young people in hospitality in Queensland getting $11 an hour and at least one Bellingen business cut out shift allowances and penality rates.
"I think the new industrial relations laws are despicable," Ms Borodin said, "and I'm gobsmacked about the $28,000 fines already issued to workers ? I didn't know about it before."
"AINS already get pitiful rates and if they cut penality rates, it will be a disgrace. I'm sick of seeing CEOs of major companies, even failed CEOs, getting huge payments while people like us are expected to take less money."
"I can't believe it's happening," said Hannah Borodin, "I'm going to tell all my friends."
A delayed start to the telecast meant the crowd missed the appearance at the Melbourne rally of Coffs Harbour's Annette Harris, who shot to national prominence as the '2c Spotlight lady' after she was offered, but refused, an AWA which would have given her an extra 2c an hour in wages, but removed award conditions.
Her husband, Graham Harris, who attended the Coffs Ex-Services Club telecast, said his wife had been nervous but looking forward to her speech. Mrs Harris also appears in an ACTU advertisement.
Many teachers supported yesterday's rally, asking parents to keep children home until after the telecast, but NSW National Party upper house MP Melinda Pavey, who lives in Coffs Harbour and is a mother herself, criticised teachers for sending leaflets about the industrial action home with primary school children, saying it was the kind of stunt which was turning parents and students away from public schools.