Valley workers rally in city

More than a thousand Gippslanders marched in Melbourne last week for the Change the Rules rally. photograph joe armao/ fairfax media

More than a thousand Gippslanders marched in Melbourne last week for the Change the Rules rally. photograph joe armao/ fairfax media

Melbourne was brought to a standstill last week when more than 100,000 workers marched on its streets for new pay deals and fairer work conditions as part of the Change the Rules rally.

Gippsland Trades and Labour Council secretary Steve Dodd estimated more than a thousand Gippslanders commuted to Melbourne for the protest which shut down thoroughfares including Swanston and Flinders streets for three hours.

The unions are pushing for more secure working conditions and pay rises for millions of workers as part of a six-point plan, which includes restoring penalty rates.

Mr Dodd said companies like Esso Australia, which owns the Longford gas plant in east Gippsland, were using Fair Work Commission rules to "betray workers" and develop "sham" enterprise bargaining agreements.

It comes as the unions continue a protest at the plant which has spanned more than four months after workers were slapped with "40 per cent pay cuts".

"We've got the view that if an employer wants to do an EBA with a group of workers then both parties should sit at the table and thrash out what terms and conditions are," Mr Dodd said.

Mr Dodd said he hoped the campaign – "which was just getting started" – would highlight blue-collar workers' issues and bring about fair rules which will not favour the "top dogs".

"We want fair rules; we don't want rules that favour the top end of town and the large corporations who are in my view tax termites because they don't pay their taxes," Mr Dodd said.

In a statement, a spokesman for Esso Australia said the dispute was between contractor UGL and the respective unions.

"The specific rates of pay and conditions of employment are a matter between UGL and its employees," the spokesman said in a statement.

"Esso encourages UGL and the unions to continue to engage in open dialogue. While Esso is not party to the content of these discussions, we do believe that open dialogue is the best way forward to resolve the dispute between the UGL and the unions."

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