Working Life

Unions set out to build a better future


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We believe in the free flow of information, and content on Working Life is available to be republished online or in print under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
By Neil Wilson

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

UNIONS will step up their fightback for fairness by building the ACTU into a campaigning machine to defeat the anti-worker agenda of conservative governments Australia-wide.

The ACTU’s new Build A Better Future campaign will first target the Abbott Government in about 30 marginal seats, as it builds momentum greater than the 2007 anti-WorkChoices effort.

The action plan to fight inequality was launched at today’s ACTU Congress and it will draw on resources of 1.8 million unionists in elections at all levels over the next three years.

FOLLOW ACTU Congress 2015 through our live blog.

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said the Abbott Government had deepened inequality in Australia so it was now the 11th worst of 34 developed nations.

“As I travel the country and talk to workers they tell me they’re worried about the future of their job security, attacks on living standards, attacks on wages and conditions,” he said.

“In this country we have a government fostering inequality, taking a wrecking ball to the social wage.”

Mr Oliver said the Abbott Government’s agenda was to first destroy unions through its Royal Commission witch hunt.

A Productivity Commission inquiry was the “Trojan horse’’ to dismantle penalty rates, the minimum wage and unions role in the industrial system under a re-elected Abbott Government.

“They want to ensure we can’t do what we did in 2007,” he said.

“I’ve got bad news for you Tony (Abbott), because we’ll do it again.”

What they said:

Dave-opening-croppedDave Oliver

“We are transforming the ACTU into a permanent campaigning organisation so that unions can campaign on the issues that matter to working people – whether its job security, universal healthcare and high quality education or making sure that companies pay their fair share of tax.

“We will have unions campaigning on the ground and online in around 30 key marginal seats around the country. If there is an early election, we’ll be ready for it.”

Ged-opening speechGed Kearney

“Out of this Congress we’ll see unions campaigning on the ground and lobbying the crossbench on a range of issues including paid parental leave, increasing women’s super and extending super to teenage workers, and regulating labour hire agencies to stop the exploitation of foreign workers.”

ACTU Congress is due to finalise funding, with Mr Oliver expected tomorrow to outline the resources needed in the three-year strategic plan.

Over 52,000 unionists in a massive nationwide survey last year revealed their fears that future generations would not be able to get a good job, afford a home, access tertiary education or get proper health care.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said it was a warning against emergence of an American-style underclass of working poor in Australia.

ACTU Congress joined 300 workplaces across the nation in endorsing a new union vision, the six-point basis of Build A Better Future comprising:

•  Workers Rights – protecting wages, conditions including penalty rates, and campaigning for secure jobs;
•  Defending Medicare – protecting Medicare, stopping new fees for visiting the doctor and properly funding hospitals;
•  Highest Quality Education – restoring funding to schools, TAFE and ensuring we never have $100,000 university fees;
•  Public ownership of public services – proper funding to make them work, ending privatisation which has brought job cuts, higher prices and helped only the companies running them;
•  A Secure Retirement – decent pensions and superannuation;
•  A Fair Go For All – supporting our industries generating skilled jobs, making multinationals and the wealthy pay fair taxes.

Ged Kearney said these pillars of our living standards were demands the union movement put on all governments.

“It seems to us there is a huge disconnect between what we are told by polticians in Canberra and by the nation’s business elite, and what is the real life working experience of working people,” she said.

Five unionists – from retail, nursing, universities, construction plus one retired person – spoke to the 1000 Congress delegates passionately about the need for the movement to defeat the Abbott Government’s cuts.

Ms Kearney said: “We’re going to turn the direction of this country around and we’re going to put it in the right direction going forward.”

Working Life is a forum to share ideas and opinions about work and life, both light-hearted and serious. The opinions presented on Working Life are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent policies or views of the ACTU.


Creative Commons License
We believe in the free flow of information, and content on Working Life is available to be republished online or in print under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


  1. Brendan Cox
    Wednesday, 27 May, 2015 at 3:06 pm · Reply

    You can help stop inequality by cleaning house and pulling rank on the SDA for starters. A properly unified UNION movement is a lot more effective that way. Ideally I should be accused of telling people how to suck eggs with this comment, BUT!!!

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