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NSW: May Day strikes across 100 construction sites

Written by: Louisa L on 2 May 2021


Half-day walkouts covering the CFMEU, ETU and Plumbers Union hit one hundred Sydney construction sites on May 1 this year. 

Thousands marched in Parramatta, in support of the CFMEU Construction’s Green Ban action to save historic Willow Grove which is to be dismantled and moved to a more “convenient” space for corporate profit. 

It was the first time May Day has been held outside central Sydney. The strikes gave it celebratory, “up-yours” vibe aimed at those who exploit workers’ labour power for mega-profits. 

Eureka’s fighting flags were sprinkled through the hundreds of CFMEU ones and other union and political flags. “CFMEU – HERE FOR THE BLUE!” The message couldn’t be clearer.

A Facebook post praised the march and was scathing of the planned destruction of Willow Grove, “A fabulous May Day turn out! Sydney, Parramatta and Windsor are the first, second and third colonial settlements, with so much heritage of national significance. Special places that are being taken from us. Why do communities have to fight so hard for so many years, to save this heritage? In Windsor historic Thompson Square now has a massive swathe of concrete cut right through it, the Windsor Bridge Replacement Project, with the destruction of highly significant early heritage dating from 1796. How was this allowed to happen against the advice of every professional consultant? It was the collusion of NSW Govt with developers, and one name particularly comes to mind: Celestino. So good to see the strength of combined unions and community yesterday. Solidarity!”

Willow Grove activists thanked the union and workers, while a Power House Museum delegate said they don’t support the demolition of Willow Grove for the new museum. 

Much older lands

Colonial heritage writes on much older lands.

Windsor’s Thompson Square was a Dharuk meeting place for millennia.  

Jaye Bukari Webb wrote on CFMEU’s Facebook page, “Thank you and ngubadimarri (big love) from Dharug Community for helping speak up and protect our land. Unity, solidarity, hope and belief. Today had it in bucket loads.”

It was followed by Elizabeth Biles-Leyland’s comment, “I will Always STAND WITH CFMEU for how you stand with First Nations mob Thank You So Much” 

NSW Construction division Secretary Darren Greenfield said the green ban must be defended, and spoke of the importance of reclaiming May 1 as a day of worker militancy for the whole trade union movement.  

The MUA’s Christy Cain and Paul Keating spoke of the need for workers to learn their own and First Peoples’ history. 

There were also brilliant speeches from a Filipina worker against Duterte and US imperialism, and a young environmentalist and service sector worker, who reminded us that the environment and working class issues are inseparable.

The long haul

One of the last speeches was young Gomeroi man Ian Brown, representing Gamilaraay Next Generation as part of a powerful coalition with farmers, some workers, locals, small business people and environmentalists, standing against fracking in the Pilliga, 500 km west of the NSW north coast town of Coffs Harbour. 

As the site of Pilliga Mission, founded in 1902, it has layers of Gamilaraay history, both before and after invasion.

He said 185 wells will threaten the land, but more importantly the Great Artesian Basin, one of this dry land’s treasures. 

He applauded the common struggle of those present. Liberation, he said, means unity not just of First Peoples, but of workers. 

But despite struggle that bubbles up whenever people are oppressed, we have to understand both our strengths and our weaknesses. Workers and everyday people are under attack, many unions are compliant, and spontaneous outbreaks often dissipate. 

Imperialism – economic, military, political, cultural will not fall over of its own accord. 

First Peoples show us that we must be ready for the long haul, that in militant unity – whatever its strength – we truly are in this together.



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