OpinionMarch for workers’ rights never more important

UNITY: Novocastrian workers will hold their May Day parade on Sunday.On Sunday, Novocastrians from all walks of life will come together for the annual May Day Parade. As home to ’s oldest regional Trades Labour Council, Newcastle has a proud history of standing up for workers’ rights. We will march to honour the contribution workers make to our community and economy – and to fight back against attacks on workers that are becoming all too common.

Newcastle workers face the perfect storm of flat or declining wages, ballooning living costs and a government actively focused on driving down pay and conditions.

The Abbott/Turnbull Government’s anti-worker agenda is clear:

They put in a submission to the Fair Work Commission arguing against increasing the minimum wage.They support cuts to Sunday penalty rates in industries which employ one in six Newcastle workers.They savagely cut staff from key frontline government agencies, reducing services and leaving thousands of remaining workers still waiting for a pay rise more than three years on.

They delayed superannuation increases and froze compulsory superannuation contributions – which were legislated to increase steadily to 12 per cent – at 9.5 per cent.They slashed funding for education, apprenticeships and skills, with apprentice numbers now at historic lows and the TAFE sector on its knees.They have savagely attacked industries such as renewable energy and science that could create significant numbers of new jobs.And they have ruthlessly gone after unions in an attempt to shackle the men and women who join together to stand up for their working rights.

Don’t be fooled by the smoke-and-mirrors announcement that the Turnbull Government has ‘abolished’ 457 visas to employ more ns. They have already signed Free Trade Agreements removing requirements for companies to look for n workers before hiring overseas, and the Trade Minister has refused to rule out waiving these requirements in future agreements.

While the government has spent much of the past four years attacking workers, big business has been showered with favours.The Turnbull Government wants to spend $50 billion on a big business tax cut, even though their own modelling shows it will only deliver one per cent boost to growth – and even this minuscule amount won’t come for 20 years.

The Turnbull Government’s war on workers in a time of unprecedented low wage growth, 75-year high inequality and dwindling job security isn’t just cruel – it is also economically reckless.

Earlier this year, Treasurer Scott Morrison recognised that stagnant wages are the ‘biggest challenge’ to our economy.This makes it particularly baffling that he continues to promote measures that will only perpetuate the problem.He relies on the long-debunked argument that the only way to drive growth is to give money to the top end of town where it will ‘trickle down’ to the workers in the form ofjobs and higher wages.There is no evidence that this has ever worked anywhere in the world. For proof that jobs don’t necessarily follow bumper profits, look at the fact that the big banks shed more than 4200 jobs in 2015-2016, despite recording multibillion-dollar profits.

It is critically important that ns stand up to the government’s damaging agenda.This is exactly what May Day is about. I hope to see you there.

Sharon Claydon is the Federal Member for Newcastle

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