One of Australias largest gatherings of union organisers is being told that building unions is the key to achieving economic justice for working people.

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet will tell 700 union organisers meeting in Sydney today that the future of unions depends on a commitment to the core Australian values of fairness and opportunity for all.

The three-day Let’s Get Real conference at Sydney University aims to develop new strategies to build the strength and effectiveness of unions.

At the conference today Mr Combet is releasing a new report as a guide to increasing union membership, bargaining power and political influence. The new report – Future Strategies: Unions Working for a Fairer Australia – updates the ACTU’s 1999 organising blueprint unions@work.

In his keynote speech to the conference, Mr Combet calls on unions to:

  • debate a manifesto of union values and objectives;
  • concentrate union political activity on achieving a clear set of goals;
  • debate changes to the industrial relations system, including the idea of
    European-style Works Councils;
  • consider a single national telephone number for contacting unions;
  • build the number and skills of workplace delegates;
  • modernise union communication and campaign methods;
  • invest more heavily in membership drives in growing parts of the workforce;
  • develop innovative recruiting tactics such as visiting workers in their
  • “Australia’s prosperity over the last 10 years has been built on the back of inequality and poverty,” Mr Combet said.

    “Nearly 90% of the jobs created in the 1990s paid less than $26,000 a year. Half of those jobs paid less than $16,000. Meanwhile the combined earnings of the top 5% of income earners exceeded the entire national spending on all social security and family payments.

    “This is John Howard’s Australia. It is not our Australia and it does not accord with fundamental union values of justice and equality. If we are to achieve a fairer society then the survival and growth of unionism is vital,” Mr Combet said.

    Media are welcome at Mr Combet’s speech – 9am, Footbridge Theatre, Sydney University and following news conference at 10.30am, Chancellor’s Room, Ground Floor, Holme Building, Sydney University.

    Read Future Strategies – Unions Working For A Fairer Australia launched at the conference.