Regional centres rail against workplace changes

IN Coffs Harbour there were 300, in Lismore there were 400 and in Syndey's west an estimated 40,000 hit the streets yesterday to protest against the Federal Government's new workplace laws.

In Lismore's CBD, the Smith family joined about 400 people protesting against the erosion of workers' rights.

The gathering was among dozens around the country rallying against the Federal Government's new industrial relations legislation, WorkChoices.

The Smiths believe the laws will make life harder for many ordinary Australians.

Teachers, meat workers, electrical engineers, fire fighters, librarians, public servants and students all joined forces to make their views on the laws known.

Jubilee Smith, a teacher, and her husband Christopher, a small business owner, marched with their two-year-old son William.

"Under these laws workers' wages and conditions will be eroded," Jubilee said.

Christopher said he worried about what sort of country his son would grow up in.

"The principal of a fair go is being unravelled," he said.

Angela Pollard, Northern River Unionists Network representative, said the main purpose of the rallies was to let public know the effects of the laws.

She said the legislation was beginning to bite with workers told 'take it, or leave it'.

"You really have no room to move with these laws," she said.

Yesterday's Coffs Coast rally at Coffs Harbour's Brelsford Park united retirees and unionists, students and teachers, teenagers and parents from as far afield as Grafton and Port Macquarie in voicing passionate opposition to the new laws and their fears for the future.

Billed by Unions NSW organisers as an event putting the 'Spotlight' back on the Howard government, the rally crowd cheered Coffs Harbour Spotlight worker Annette Harris, who is still on holidays in Queensland, for speaking out against AWAs now being offered which remove award conditions for workers.

Among yesterday's crowd was Rick Purton, whose teenage daughter works with Mrs Harris at Spotlight, under award conditions.

"Our kids don't know what the future holds," said the father of eight children.

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