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“Unions aren’t spectator sports… we’re only as strong as our members” Sally and Rallies – how we can change the rules.

After kicking off the Change the Rules National rallies in Perth last week and an enormous day of rallying in Melbourne, ACTU Secretary Sally McManus was back in Perth to visit workers across the city, including staff at Clontarf Aboriginal College.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus meets Clontarf Aboriginal College principal Troy Hayter in front of the original school building, currently boarded up because of asbestos contamination.

With Andrew Milne representing the IEUA WA Branch Executive, Sally also met with Clontarf principal, Troy Hayter and IEU Delegate and Assistant Head of Boarding, Adam Wallis, who explained the issues facing teachers in the non-government system. Temporary contracts and heavy workloads are two of the biggest issues facing educators and staff in this sector. Adam raised the unique challenges that face Boarding School staff, with inconsistent rostering and concerns with health and safety issues.

IEU Delegate Adam Wallis discusses some of the challenges of boarding school staff with Andrew Milne, Sally McManus and Troy Hayter.

During her two-day visit, Sally McManus took time to talk to Clontarf staff – members and non-members alike – about Australian Unions’ national Change the Rules campaign and how the rules, as they stand, are not rewarding Australian workers.

The campaign is about bringing back “a fair go” for workers, eliminating job uncertainty and redressing the overwhelmingly disproportionate percent of casual and insecure work in Australia, according to McManus.

“Young people trying to get jobs, trying to get a permanent job, is really, really tough. People can be put on casual forever,” she told staff gathered in the Clontarf Trade Training Centre. “And now we have this new gig economy, it’s the same thing – it’s just another way of making jobs insecure, putting stress onto people and taking away rights.”

The ACTU Secretary explained the national campaign is about changing the rules that have lead to this situation.

“In our country, we have the highest rate of temporary employment in the OECD and the second highest rate of insecure work. It’s not normal, the number of insecure jobs that we’ve got. And we can do something about it by changing the workplace laws.”

“Unions aren’t spectator sports… we can’t do it by ourselves..”
Sally McManus, ACTU Secretary

The campaign also aims to tackle wealth inequality.

“At the moment we’ve got record-low wage growth and they always said to us that when profits go up and productivity goes up, so will wages. But that’s stopped happening,” said McManus. “And it’s stopped happening for a few reasons.”

She then listed some of the reasons the rules need to change.

  • Australia has a relatively low minimum wage compared to our high cost of living. $37,000 a year is not a living wage.
  • Bargaining laws need to be improved. Bargaining across sectors benefits workers AND employers. It’s more efficient and fairer.
  • The current set-up of the Community Development Program (CDP) needs reforming in order to be more equitable for rural workers.

Honouring the ethos of Clontarf Aboriginal School and its students, McManus briefly recounted the long and proud interwoven histories of Indigenous communities and the union movement and the achievements won by working together.

“The Wave Hill Walk Off with the Gurindji, as well as with the trade union movement around the country that got behind them was the longest strike we’ve ever had in the country. Palm Island as well… There is a whole lot of Indigenous leadership coming up through the trade union movement and a whole lot of Indigenous people now running unions as well.”

McManus ended with a plea to staff to continue to support their union, “Unions aren’t spectator sports and we can’t do it by ourselves. Unions are just as strong as their members and there’s strength in numbers.

“If you really believe in turning around inequality, if you want to live in a fair society, and you want that not just for yourselves but for your students and for your kids, we really need you to join us.

“It’s not just about what’s happening here at your school, although, of course that’s important in terms of what happens with your EBA – it’s much bigger than that.

“What we’re doing is actually trying to turn around the inequality that we’ve currently got. We just want a situation where people have their fair share, there are more secure jobs, that people can rely on them and that we get pay rises that at least keep up with the cost of living.

“If we don’t, as working people, band together, it’s just not going to happen.”

IEUA WA Branch Organiser Louise Dillon, ACTU Secretary Sally McManus, IEUA WA Branch Organiser Sonia Gurrin, IEUA WA Branch Executive Andrew Milne, Clontarf Aboriginal College Boarding School staff: Adam Wallis (IEU Delegate), Elijah Antulov-Mortens and Troy Hayter, Principal, Clontarf Aboriginal College.

Thank you to Clontarf staff, principal Troy Hayter and Delegate Adam Wallis for assisting IEUA WA Branch staff in organising this visit.

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