Class walk out called over IR laws

ITEM:High school students are being urged by a socialist youth organisation to walk out of class next week and join a student strike against the Federal Government's industrial relations legislation.

Resistance, the organisation behind the planned strike, expects hundreds of students from public and private schools across Sydney - including Newtown High, Knox Grammar and North Sydney Girls High - to take part in the June 1 action.

A spokeswoman for the Education Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, said students were expected to be in class unless they had a legitimate reason and permission from their parents for not being there.

However, university student Simon Cunich, a Resistance spokesman, encouraged students to break the rules to participate in the strike.

"We are encouraging [students] to get permission if [they] can but if not that shouldn't stop them coming because it's such an important issue that we need to be able to go against the rules," Mr Cunich said.

Students from year 8 to year 12, plus some TAFE and university students, are expected to participate, he said.

Resistance believes the new WorkChoices legislation will adversely affect young workers, whom it says are some of the most vulnerable workers in the community.

"We refuse to accept this attack on our rights. We know that if we fight we can win," a statement on the the Resistance website says.

The group says it is buoyed by the success of student protests across France which resulted in the government dropping a controversial labour law.

"In France recently, students spearheaded a mass movement that fought in the streets against a similar anti-worker law, eventually forcing the government to back-down and repeal the law."

Those protests turned violent but Mr Cunich said Resistance's student strike would be a peaceful event featuring a lunchtime gathering at Belmore Park followed by a march along Broadway to Victoria Park.

Past rallies organised by the group, including the 2003 Books Not Bombs student protest against the Iraq war, were marred by scuffles between protesters and police.

The Federation of Parents and Citizens Association said students had a "democratic right" to participate in rallies, so long as they behaved in a civilised manner.

"That's their democratic right and they need to make sure that their student welfare is not being compromised and that their parents and their teachers are informed of their whereabouts," said the association's spokeswoman, Sharon-Roni Canty.

The Education Department said truancy would not be tolerated.

"The Department treats student absences seriously. If students should be in class during this strike action that's been called by Resistance and they are not there, they will need a note from their parents explaining why they are not at school."


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