Unions are still giving ordinary Australians a voice
You can’t understand the history of social progress in Australia without understanding the union movement.
Unions have been the way in which ordinary Australians have made their voice heard in Government.
The way in which workers from shearers and nurses to factory workers have got together to build a common cause and combine their strength.
From the eight-hour day, the idea of a living wage, aged pensions, equal pay for women, workers compensation, through to recent debates about childcare and maternity leave, unions have been in the forefront of change.
Every May Day I am reminded of what we have achieved, and what an honour it is for me to represent Australian workers.
Unions have over two million members across Australia. That’s a diverse group of people, representing every part of the nation and every sector of the economy.
The strength of unions has always been that they respect and listen to their members. When unions lose their way, it is because they have lost touch with what their members want them to do.
I believe the strength of the ACTU is that through its 40-odd affiliate unions, it listens to its members, and respects their different views and circumstances.
Union delegates work hard in thousands of workplaces across Australia to ensure that workers’ interests are not ignored.
This is why the ACTU has launched the Working Australia Census 2011. This is our way of using modern technology to enhance our communication with workers.
The online census is open to all workers – union members or not – and allows you to give your views on issues including work/life balance, workplace fairness and the social benefits you think unions should be fighting for.
This is the biggest survey in the history of Australian unions, and we will use the research to shape our campaigns for the future.
The data information we get will make our arguments more persuasive when we sit down with employers or governments to fight for workers’ rights. It will give strength to the voice of working people.
We are doing this because work is not just about pay, it is about fairness and respect for the physical, mental and emotional labour that people perform. It is about making sure that work is part of a balanced life, and that workers can make it home safely at the end of a shift.
It is sometimes put about that unions are an anachronism, that somehow workers individually are now powerful enough not to need them, or that they stand in the way of prosperity.
Tell that to the asbestos-poisoned workers of Australia, who have relied on the union movement to deliver them some belated justice.
Tell that to workers on the minimum wage, whose only hope of a pay increase is through the Minimum Wage Case.
Sometimes the only way you will be listened to is if you shout in unison.
The work of the union movement is never finished. No matter what we achieve, the values of fairness and solidarity in the workplace and in society need to maintained.
The 21st century has seen big changes in the way people work. The rise in casual work, in unpaid overtime, and in families having to work three or four jobs to survive.
I know that many families are struggling with the rising cost of living, and with the difficulty of renting or buying a home.
These struggles are made worse by the fact that many are in precarious insecure work – where they can not predict the hours they will work or their income from one week to the next.
I know these workers can not fly to Canberra to lobby politicians, or put together their own ad campaigns to influence public opinion.
They need someone to speak up on their behalf.
Unions have been the voice of ordinary Australians for over a century and we want to make sure that tradition continues.
The challenges workers face will not go away, but they will change. Unions are changing with them, so we can maintain our role of supporting Australians, and providing a voice for those people whose voice is often ignored.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…