Workers celebrate 160 years of unionism at a Labour Day march in Ipswich on Saturday.
Workers celebrate 160 years of unionism at a Labour Day march in Ipswich on Saturday. Claudia Baxter

Workers show a united front

IPSWICH workers took to the streets on Saturday to march for their rights and those their Australia's forefathers fought hard to achieve 160 years ago.

More than 800 workers from 11 unions marched through the city streets chanting, "The workers united will never be defeated," before gathering at Timothy Maloney Park.

The AMWU celebrated its 160th birthday and state organiser Steve Franklin said the turnout was proof the union movement still appealed.

"It's a celebration of unionism and union achievements. The amount of support that we get at the Labour Day marches around Queensland is an indication that people still support unionism," he said.

Mr Franklin said the Ipswich workforce had felt the loss of key industries in recent times.

"We have a huge loss on some of the traditional industries across Ipswich and there aren't really any new industries in the area. The business areas which seem to be increasing are small industries, but we do need some larger industries."

AMWU acting national president Andrew Dettmer said unionism had strengthened since abolishment of Work-Choices, with members up 30%.

"It shows the cause of labour is one which is ongoing. As long as there is a worker that needs help, we will stand together," he said.

The Labour Day march was still a significant day in his employees' calendars, JBS Dinmore president Keith Haslem said.

The Dinmore plant employs more than 1900 people and Mr Haslem believed the meat industry was recovering in the face of a strong Aussie dollar.

"In 10 years time our dollar will be down and the meat industry in Australia will be really strong," he said.

"The industry is probably stronger now than it has been for the last few years. We rely on orders from overseas and the live exports hurt us for a while."

The Labour Day march still holds significance for the plant's workers, Mr Haslem said.

"Labour Day is something that our colleagues fought for years ago. Without the workers, Australia wouldn't be what it is today."

Queensland Council of Unions Ipswich president John Webb said Labour Day gave an opportunity for ordinary working people to support fairness and equity at work.


Labour Day

  • 800 march in Ipswich Labour Day festivities.
  • The holiday originates from the mid-1800s.
  • Workers slaved through 12 hour days, six days a week.

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