HUNTER Workers says it expects to fill the 800-seat Newcastle City Hall on Tuesday morning for a mass meeting as part of the ACTU’s national campaign to “change the rules” around industrial relations.
The Change the Rules campaign is a centrepiece of the union movement’s push for higher wages and greater job security.
The Newcastle rally starting at 10am Tuesday is one of 22 being held across the country in a sweep that began in Perth on October 18 and is set to wind up in Canberra on November 20.
Employer groups have condemned the rallies, with Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox saying employees who went to the rallies instead of work would in most cases be taking “unlawful industrial action”.
Newcastle rally organiser and Hunter Workers president Leigh Shears said on Friday that unions had asked their members to take leave and to consult with their employers to attend Tuesday’s meeting.
“Under the Fair Work Act, employees have a right not to be discriminated against because of their political opinion,” Mr Shears said.
“Employers cannot unreasonably refuse to allow employees to take leave.
“The right to protest is a fundamental tenet of a democratic society.”
Employer groups have downplayed the ACTU’s concerns about casual work but Mr Shears said 40 per cent of Australia’s workforce was “in insecure work, either in casual, contract or labour-hire”.
He said two-thirds of the University of Newcastle’s staff, teachers and academics had insecure work, often in the form of “rolling short-term contracts that can continue for decades”.
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