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“May Day is an affirmation of what we believe in. We believe in the dignity of work and the right for everyone to have a job. We believe in the right to have a safe and harassment-free workplace.”

Inspiring May Day Sydney speech by Lina Cabaero-Ponnambalam, CEO, Asian Women at Work http://www.awatw.org.au/ and photos of the May Day parade.

Sisters and brothers in the trade union movement, community activists, comrades- I bring you warm greetings of solidarity from Asian Women at Work, a community organisation that empowers migrant women workers to stand up, speak out and take action on the injustices and exploitation inside and outside the workplace.

We are proud to be here with you today – you who continue to champion, defend and fight for workers’ rights in this country.

To the over 2000 migrant women workers we represent, May Day is an affirmation of what we believe in. We believe in the dignity of work and the right for everyone to have a job. We believe in the right to have a safe and harassment-free workplace.

We believe in the right to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. We believe in the right to have regular hours and security at work.

We are here today to ask you – sisters and brothers in the trade union movement – to keep on fighting with us in asserting and defending these rights.

In the first place, migrant women workers have yet to fully enjoy them. But more importantly, we are here today because Mr Abbott and his government is making sure that we are divested of these rights and we cannot allow this to happen.

Do you know that under this government, rules that helped ensure Australia’s garment makers did not use sweatshop labour were needlessly discarded as part of its so-called red tape cuts?

Mr Abbott’s government did just that and its ultimate intention is to dismantle the current protections for outworkers who are some of the lowest paid and most vulnerable workers in this country.

Do you think this government cares about Kim, a Vietnamese woman who works in a vegetable farm and gets paid $100 for 12 hours of hard work, rain or shine?

Do you think this government cares about May, a Chinese factory worker who lost her job when she told her boss that she was pregnant?

Do you think this government cares about Jin, a 50 year old Chinese woman who lost her job because she asked her boss if she can be made permanent?

Do you think this government cares about Sue, a Khmer woman who works in a chicken factory, gets paid $10 an hour and has to bring her own gloves to protect her hands at work?

Do you think this government cares about Priya, a Thai international student who works as a massage therapist in the City, gets paid $10 an hour and suffers from constant sexual harassment from male customers?

Do you think this government cares about Maria, a 457 visa holder who was hired as a nurse but works as a cleaner?

This government doesn’t give a damn about the thousands of Kims and Mays and Jins and Sues and Priyas and Marias out there.

This government governs for the wealthy and will not think twice about disadvantaging those who are already doing it tough such as migrant women workers in low paid employment and their families.

Just look at the Abbott government’s Commission of Audit report. It thinks Australia’s lowest paid workers already earn too much.

This is why May Day 2014 is very important for we have to commit – now, more than ever – to work together to prevent this government from robbing us of a decent future.

For Asian Women at Work, we take this opportunity to call on the unions to work with us inside and outside workplaces to educate and organise migrant women workers.

Understanding their rights at work and becoming union members are very important for the women we work with.

We have always encouraged them to become union members but we need to work harder – with the unions – to make this a reality. In industries that have a significant number of migrant women workers – we need more bilingual women union organisers.

We need to work harder to bring the unions and migrant communities together. So on this day, let us remember that –

When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,
But the union makes us strong.

Sing with me now –

Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong.

Thank you. Happy May Day everybody!

Posted by Alison Rahill, Unions NSW Community Organiser arahill@unionsnsw.org.au mobile 0414 316 839 twitter @RahillAlison Facebook.com/alison.rahill

Tagged: Migrant Workers  /   May Day  /   Women

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