Category: Australian Workers Union

What Future for ‘This Great Movement of Ours’?

by Martin Upchurch

Trade unions in Britain are at a watershed. This month’s public sector strike on November 30th, involves 3 million workers from 27 different unions. It follows the largest ever trade union organised demonstration held in March and the public sector strike of three quarters of a million workers in June. This wave of strikes and protests must be viewed from a wider perspective. The student demonstrations late last year, followed by the Arab Spring and then the Occupy Movement have given  union members confidence to take the plunge and vote to strike. Protest has returned.  In 2010, the number of strikes in Britain were the lowest since records begun, now the masses are taking part.

But do the strikes also mark a major change in the relationship between the unions and the Labour Party? In the post War period trade unions swam with the stream for thirty years. Full employment provided the opportunity for unions to expand their membership, notably in the public sector and among women. When membership peaked in 1979 at nearly 13 million, governments were willing to do business with the unions. Concessions were made to expand the welfare state so long as trade union leaders held back the wage demands of their rank-and-file.

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3 key priorities for NSW Labor Policy Forum

by Hugh McDermott





On Monday, 17  October,  voting commences for the election of your 16 representatives on the  NSW Labor Policy Forum.    With your support, we can work together to rebuild NSW Labor by ensuring ALP policy is aligned with our strengths, values and beliefs.   If elected, I will pursue 3 key priorities:

1. Rebuild NSW Labor to win future elections

The loss at the 2011 State election was the end of a decade of decline of our Labor Party.  Over the  years we have seen membership and Branch numbers diminish to an unacceptable level. We all have opinions and views why this has  happened, and who or what we feel is responsible.

Putting these thoughts aside, one thing is certain. The decline must stop and we must put into place new strategies and structures that will re-engage the electorate, recruit a new generation (regardless of age  – both young and old – of Labor activists and take the fight to the Liberal-National Coalition. We owe this not only to those “true believers” that have continued to support us at the ballot box, but also  to those electors that became disillusioned with Labor and whose trust and confidence we must earn back.

With your support, I am committed to this rebuilding – not only to put  us in a position to win back many seats in the next election – but to create a growing membership base that is committed to reinvigorating the  NSW Labor movement in the long term.

2. Encourage the creation of progressive policy to re-establish Labor values

NSW Labor has always been the State Branch that led the way in progressive pragmatic policy and actions. However, our Labor values have not always been reflected in the recent actions of those in power. We just need to think of the heated debate concerning electricity privatisation or the ICAC investigations to confirm this concern. In  turn, the electorate no longer believed that NSW Labor reflected our core vales.

We now have an opportunity to realign NSW Labor policy with our core labor values. While the 2011 election loss was deeply disappointing for all of us, it has brought a resolve from many in the Party to reform the way we develop policy. Forums such as the NSW Labor Policy Forum create  a platform for rank and file members, trade union officials, and elected  representatives to debate issues and influence policy outside the traditional forums like State Conference.

If elected to the NSW Labor Policy Forum, underpinning my views would be  what I see as core Labor values. These include providing opportunities  for those who work hard to achieve their dreams, protecting the vulnerable, creating an environment where people feel safe and secure in  their homes and at work, and respecting people with different views, beliefs and backgrounds. With these values as a basis, we will be able to create progressive policy that is aligned to the values we share as Labor Party members.

3. Represent the views of Labor members living in Western Sydney

Having lived in Parramatta through the 1990s and now in Greystanes with my       fiancé Bettina, I have seen many changes in Western Sydney over the past  20 years.   People who live along the M4 and M5 cannot all be stereotyped as blue  collar workers living in Struggle Street.

We are people who have professional careers; we are executives in listed companies and government agencies, and business owners. We are also successful tradespeople, educators and healthcare providers.

We work hard so that we can make choices about the sort of life we want for ourselves and our families. We want to choose whether or not to  holiday in Australia or overseas, whether or not to start a family, or whether or not to send our children to private school. We don’t expect a free ride, but we do expect the same opportunities as everyone else and to be able to enjoy the rewards of our hard work.

Having come from a modest background, I have taken every opportunity  available to me to get an education and work experience that has allowed me to have a successful legal and academic career. I am committed to ensuring Labor policy continues to create these opportunities for others. While these views are not unique to Labor members living in Western Sydney, they are central for many of us who have not come from a privileged background but who have worked hard and been successful in our lives.

If you agree with my views on rebuilding NSW Labor, then I would appreciate your support on Monday.

Manufacturing: What to Do

by Bob Carr


In the mid 70s we used to apply a tariff of 57 percent to every vehicle entering the country. When the imports still came, because people preferred better cars from overseas, the government introduced quantitative restrictions. Just banned further imports. The result was an old, rusting and environmentally-inefficient car fleet and a disproportionate share of a family’s income sunk into purchasing the vehicle they needed.

All to prop up a few jobs in decrepit factories at Pagewood (GMH) and Alexandria (Leyland). I’m writing about Sydney. Making cars that Australians preferred not to buy.

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Flying a rebel flag to ensure all are given a fair go

by Paul Howes

THE bulk of the Australian population now sits among the most highly urbanised on the globe, concentrated in booming and cosmopolitan cities along our coastlines. But even today, just as it did more than 100 years ago, our country still lives off the massive profits delivered by resource-rich industries scattered across the outback.

And even today, it’s the Australian Workers Union’s members who, just as they did in our early years, still work at the heart of these important regional communities. Back then, Australia lived off the sheep’s back. Today, the average AWU member digs our wealth up out of the soil, or pumps it up from the seabed.

On Thursday the AWU marked its 125th year of existence. Although life was first breathed into the union on June 16, 1886, at Fern’s Hotel in Ballarat, Victoria, the heart and soul of the AWU has always been in Queensland, at the site of the great shearers’ strike of 1891 in Barcaldine.

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The Need for a UN Mechanism to Enforce International Labour Law Standards



by Hugh McDermott


Globalisation is an important and vital element of the new world economy.  Not only does it allow companies to access competitively priced labour markets, it redistributes employment opportunities and can provide significant economic benefits to workers in emerging markets.

Offshore outsourcing which began in the 1990s is now the norm in most manufacturing companies. However, advances in internet technology is triggering a rise in offshoring white collar positions at a level never seen before. Companies like Virtual Employee and People in the Cloud offer skilled labour across a wide range of business functions in developing countries at competitive prices. This is opening up new labour markets for companies in developed economies and new opportunities for educated workers in developing nations.

In this climate, the role of the International Labor Organisation (ILO) in promoting labour rights is more relevant than ever before.

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