Australia’s unions have stepped up their organising drive with a new $1 million training program for delegates and workplace activists.

The $1 million funding commitment for the new Union Education Foundation was approved by the ACTU Executive meeting in Melbourne today. The Foundation will focus on improving the organising, campaigning and negotiating skills of workplace delegates.

The Executive also affirmed the ACTU’s priority agenda for 2002, including improved job security for casual workers, better award redundancy rights, paid maternity leave and equal pay for women, higher minimum wages and family-friendly working hours.

‘The establishment of The Union Education Foundation reflects the ongoing commitment of unions to adapting to the changing demands of Australian workplaces,’ ACTU President Sharan Burrow said.

The Foundation will build on the successes of the ACTU Organising Centre and aims to establish training centres in every State to develop a strong organisational base for future union growth. The Foundation represents the ongoing commitment of the ACTU to the 1999 unions @ work report.

‘The ACTU is determined to continue delivering better living standards for the growing number of part-time and casual employees, low-paid workers, and people struggling to balance work and family demands, especially women,’ Ms Burrow said.

Latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures in March showed union membership increased last year for the first time in over a decade, rising by 1.3% after a 4.2% jump in the number of women union members.

Unions planned to improve award conditions for casual workers by increasing the casual leave loading to 25% and giving casuals the right to become permanent after a minimum period of regular employment.

A summary of the ACTU Executive agenda is available as a PDF.