A colourful contingent of about 50 gay and lesbian demonstrators joined the estimated 25,000 people who packed Belmore Park near Central Station on Tuesday to protest the federal government’s imminent workplace relations overhaul.
The queer protesters joined the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) national day of action to highlight what they call a looming threat to gay workers.
The coordinated event drew more than 100,000 people across the state, according to Unions NSW. The ACTU estimated about half a million workers took part around the country.
Under the banner of activist group Queer Bloc, the Belmore Park protesters flew rainbow flags and displayed placards warning gay workers’ rights were under attack.
It’s more about visibility and letting everybody know that queers are workers as well, and that we need our rights the same as everybody else, Queer Bloc spokesperson Annaliese Constable told Sydney Star Observer at the rally.
Proposed changes to unfair dismissal laws and the effect of a planned reduction of the minimum wage on women were among activists’ concerns, Constable said.
Possible restrictions on gay men and lesbians accessing carer’s leave to look after their partners also remain a worry.
Fellow Queer Bloc spokesperson Chris Mansergh told the Star gay and lesbian workers were under strong attack from the federal government’s WorkChoices industrial relations package.
This is the thin end of the wedge. Queers need to be concerned about this and we need to stop it before it goes any further and more of our workplace rights start to get eroded, he said.
The Belmore Park rally heard from speakers at a mass rally in central Melbourne via video link-up, including ACTU secretary Greg Combet and president Sharan Burrow.
Among those who sent pre-recorded messages for the national video broadcast were former prime minister and ACTU president Bob Hawke, 2005 Big Brother runner-up Tim Brunero and religious leaders.
The Belmore Park rally later moved along George Street to Chifley Square, joining up with marchers from an estimated 15,000-strong protest in Martin Place.