Hundreds rally against WorkChoices

Sacked retail worker Jodi Wilff (pictured) was the keynote speaker at last weeks Lismore rally against the Howard Governments WorkChoices legislation, which saw several hundred people turn out to protest.

My advice to anyone and I wish I had done it sooner is to join a union, she told the rally.

Jodi said after more than two years of employment she was fired for misconduct by a new boss, after her old boss was transferred interstate. However, she found she had no legal rights to contest the situation because under WorkChoices legislation businesses with less than 100 employees are now exempt from unfair dismissal laws.

She said she had no option but to go to the media to try and clear her name and a resulting story led to a job offer, based on her good reputation and support from her old boss.

But that doesnt take away from the fact that I was unfairly dismissed, she said.

Northern Rivers Unionist Network (NRUN) spokeswoman Angela Pollard said all federal awards would be gone within four years due to a staggered scrapping of the awards under WorkChoices.

Meanwhile, she said state employees like nurses, police and firies would also lose their awards if the Coalition won the state election in March, as policy was to bring all industrial relations laws under the federal WorkChoices system.

Lismore firefighter James Connors, who protested on Thursday, said every state employee should be concerned.

All our rates and wages and conditions are at risk and up in the air with a Liberal government, he said. Our union is certainly worried. Weve got 100 per cent employee membership and it has worked very hard to get us the conditions that weve got. Five years ago we were some of the lowest paid firefighters in the country. Now were on parity to the rest of the country. (Under WorkChoices) our union will be undermined and we wont be represented when negotiating for our pay and conditions.

Ballina MP Don Page said it was Coalition policy to transfer state industrial relations over to the Commonwealth. He said the Victorian state government had done the same thing under Jeff Kennett and the economy had prospered as a result.

Since then they have actually gone ahead economically, he said. Employment is now higher in Victoria than NSW.

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