Coffs Coast workers united in IR protests

The Coffs  Ex-Services Club Auditorium was packed out at yesterday?s Day of Community Protest.
The Coffs Ex-Services Club Auditorium was packed out at yesterday?s Day of Community Protest.

"There was a good cross-section of the community today. It was good to see so many young people here," Mr Werstak said.

In fact, men and women, young and old, turned up in huge numbers, filling up the Ex-Services auditorium in Coffs Harbour ? joining about 5000 people just on the Mid North Coast ? to listen to unions, workers, and religious leaders talk about their opposition to the industrial relations changes through a national Sky Channel link-up.

Political parties also spoke, with the Greens, Democrats and Labor standing united in opposition.

"We in the Labor Party will have no bar of this legislation," opposition leader Kim Beazley said.

"This legislation is gone with the election of a Labor Government."

But Prime Minister John Howard said Australians would look back on criticism of the changes and wonder what all the fuss was about.

"It is my view that after (the new laws) have been implemented for a period of time, most Australians will look back on the criticisms and objections . . . with a sense of bewilderment," he said.

"The sky will not fall in, weekend barbecues will not be abolished, parents will still be able to spend Christmas day with their children."

But that's not what the unions believe.

"We've had a good run for a while," Mr Klaassen said.

"If you speak to our grandparents' generation, they'll tell you of how hard they have had to fight for workers' rights.

"The younger generation has not gone through it, so it's a social awakening."

And now, Mr Klaassen and Mr Werstak are calling on the Coffs Coast community to take action, asking workers to come forward with their experiences, and warning employers to treat workers fairly or risk being exposed.

"The community also needs to let their local member know their thoughts about the legislation, and ask questions," Mr Klaassen said.

n Tell us what you think about the industrial relations changes. Email editor@coffscoastadvocate. or write to 53 Moonee Street, Coffs Harbour.

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