MICHELE O’NEIL is the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, or the ACTU as it’s more commonly known. She says the hard-fought promise of “eight hours’ work, eight hours’ recreation and eight hours’ rest” is becoming a foreign concept for more and more Australian workers.
THIS is no ordinary May Day.
This is our chance to decide the direction of the country.
For more than 100 years working people have been celebrating May Day.
It is International Workers Day–a day of solidarity, of unity, of friendship. It’s also a day of action.
The first May Days in the late 19th century were responses to severe injustice.
In 1886, workers in Chicago demanding an eight-hour-day were killed by a bomb, followed by police bullets.
Authorities waged a campaign of persecution against those involved in the demonstration.
Thirty years earlier, Australian stonemasons had downed tools and marched on parliament to win the first eight-hour day.
More than a century later, we still march on May 1 for all working people.
This year, we are a country at a crossroads. The rallying cry of “Eight hours’ work, eight hours’ recreation and eight hours’ rest” is now beyond the reach of many Australian workers.
In only two weeks, working people have a choice to make at the ballot box.
We can continue down the path of insecure jobs and wages not keeping up with the rising cost of living.
The Americanisation of our jobs and lives with many people working two, three or even more jobs just to make ends meet.
A low-pay, insecure future where working people always come last and multi-national corporate profits come first.
Or we can make a better choice. We can choose the education our children deserve. We can choose quality health care whether you are rich or poor.
We can choose good, secure jobs that we can count on. We can choose fair pay rises that let us live decent lives.
The road of trickle-down economics that Scott Morrison and the Liberal Government have driven us down has hit a dead end.
Wage growth is at record lows. Corporations are taking far more than their fair share of the wealth we create, and leaving us with not enough.
The result? Many people are struggling to pay for the basics. We can’t get enough hours. We live day-to-day, week-to-week, waiting for that text to tell us we have a shift.
And business owners are suffering too. Their customers don’t have money to spend.
When working people get pay rises–especially those on low incomes–they spend it in local shops and cafes.
Of course the Morrison Government and the people who benefit from the status quo don’t want us to get our fair share.
They’re launching one scare campaign after another to keep working people from making a better choice. It will not work.
Every time they try to shout, blame and bully their way out of problems that they created, we will know who they really work for–the top end of town.
Because in Scott Morrison’s world, these are the only people who matter.
Why else would he protect the big banks by voting 26 times against a banking royal commission.
Why else would he vote to continue cutting penalty rates eight times?
Why else would he spend years as treasurer trying to hand $80 billion to corporations, include $17 billion to those same big banks.
In his world, it’s only a fair go for some.
For big business. For the mega-wealthy. For his mates.
This isn’t the real Australian version of fairness.
We don’t want a country where how much money you have, or who you know, or where you live is what determines whether you have power or rights.
Tomorrow, when we march, we will be marching for justice, equality, secure jobs and fair wages and conditions.
A fair go for all.
And when we vote on May 18 that’s what we’ll be voting for.