(Story courtesy Working Life website)
The AMWU is among unions which have agreed to 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 put 21 full-time activists to work targeting the Abbott Government in marginal seats, as it builds momentum greater than the 2007 anti-WorkChoices effort.
The action plan to fight inequality was launched at the ACTU Congress and it will draw on resources of 1.8 million unionists in elections at all levels over the next three years.
But Build A Better Future also reaches far beyond federal or state elections, aiming to build up an adaptable, specialist team of campaigners which can be swung into any union’s effort, on issues ranging from penalty rates to temporary visas, local content in manufacturing or protecting the minimum wage.
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.
Building fairness: Re-elected ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver.
Picture: Jorge de Araujo/ACTU
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.”
ACTU Congress approved the $13 million strategic Build A Better Future plan with no votes against, delegates convinced the extra $2 affiliation fee per union members would be money well spent for the future.
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.
The new campaigning staff would be an adaptable resource available to affiliate unions to help in specific “blitz” industrial or community campaigns.
Expanding use of social media would be key to backing up face to face campaigning and that would be aided by developing a vast national data base, starting from existing union information..
Mr Oliver said: “We all know that data is gold and we want union data systems that will talk to one another. Ultimately we want a union-wide database.”
The data banks used in elections would be grown, combined with union systems and updated to be comprehensive, accurate, flexible tools.
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 industires 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.
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.”