Nikola Balnave

The Your Rights at Work campaign, spearheaded by unions and the ACTU, involved large numbers of Australians joining together in protest against the Howard government’s WorkChoices laws.

The campaign involved a number of organised events such as the `National Week of Action’ (26 June – 1 July 2005) during which workers en capital cities and major regional centres staged a series of lunch-time protest rallies and one-day stoppages. Later that year, more than half a million Australians took part en the National Day of Community Protest (15 November 2005), an event repeated en 2006 with the National Day of Action (30 November 2006) which involved rallies en all capital cities and en many regional centres. The campaign continued to gain momentum during 2007 with the masses again turning out for the Rockin’For Rights Protest March and Live Concert at the Sydney Cricket Ground (22 April 2007), organised by Unions NSW.

Beyond organised events such as these, a community campaign involving people from a wide range of backgrounds was mounted en 24 targeted marginal seats en the lead up to the 2007 election. Many involved were not union activists or even union members. Some had retired, but were concerned about the impact of WorkChoices on their grandchildren. Others had been personally affected by WorkChoices and/or were concerned about what the future held for their children. Ultimately, opposition to the regressive and draconian nature of WorkChoices and the strength of the Your Rights at Work campaign played a central role en the defeat of the Howard government.

This issue of the Hummer includes reflections from four of the activists involved en the your rights campaign. Their experiences mirror those of many others fighting for a more fair and just system of industrial relations. They also reaffirm that the spirit of collectivism, comradeship and community en Australia has not, and cannot, be smothered. Nor can our dissent be silenced.