It’s a sight that would have Joh Bjelke-Petersen spinning in his grave. On a beautiful sunny day in the middle of the Gold Coast, nestled between the ensemble of skyscrapers and canal homes adorning “the Strip”, hundreds of trade unionists from a raft of industries gathered after walking off the job. They came out in solidarity with striking Gold Coast City Council workers. With more than 3,500 workers, the council is one of the city’s biggest employers.
As a contingent of hi-vis-clad construction workers joined the rally, one of the striking council workers cheered. “I’ve been working here for 27 years; I’ve never seen the CFMEU walk off site for us before! This only happens in Brisbane”, he told me.
The protest is against some new class enemies – Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate (currently under investigation by the Queensland corruption watchdog over his involvement in dodgy property deals) and the even more despised council CEO Dale Dickson (whose salary surpasses that of the prime minister).
This is the “glitter strip”, after all – there’s money to splash around. In preparation for the Commonwealth Games, millions have been outlaid by the council on new stadiums and revamping the Coast’s image. At the same time, the council is locked in enterprise agreement negotiations with its workforce and has refused to offer a decent pay rise or assurances of job security.
To add insult to injury, council has implemented a no-strike clause for the period of the Games. With rumours swirling around the workplace that Tate and Dickson are planning mass lay-offs and casualisation after the Games, workers are fed up. The air was electric as a motion was put from the crowd to march to Tate’s office.
A member of the Services Union, which covers many of the council workers, said: “We don’t want money, just job security. We have had a fair few industrial actions in the past, mostly over wages. They say the Games are for us, but it’s a big inconvenience. Many people just wish it wasn't happening. They want to contract out our work. There’s no democracy”.
The unions representing council workers have vowed further action.