Job security, rights at work, and a vision for a more prosperous and equal Australia will be at the top of the agenda when hundreds of delegates meet for the ACTU’s national Congress this week.
With a theme of Unions: Delivering for all working Australians, the triennial Congress in Brisbane will establish the union movement’s plan for the next three years.
Beginning today (Tuesday) until Thursday, it will be the first Congress to be held under a Labor Government in 14 years, and the first since the Howard Government was defeated in the WorkChoices election of 2007.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow said Congress 2009 would be held under the shadow of a global recession and deteriorating domestic economy, and job security and income protection would dominate discussion.
“When times are tough, it is no surprise that more workers are turning to unions to safeguard their interests,” Ms Burrow said.
“Unions are at the forefront of protecting employment and incomes of working Australians since the first signs of the global recession hitting Australia.
“We have successfully called for government investment to stimulate the economy, and have worked tirelessly to keep workers in employment and prevent job losses.
“But more needs to be done: at Congress, we will be calling for reforms to guarantee 100% of workers entitlements when companies collapse.
“Unions will also outline their long-term vision of a new deal for job security and income protection. The response to economic downturn needs to be more sophisticated than just laying workers off.
“Now is the time for a national debate about a new, lasting approach to deal with job security and income protection and incomes in periodic economic downturns.
“The new Fair Work Act is a great step forward from WorkChoices,” said ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence.
“It will restore decency and rights in workplaces, a proper safety net underpinning all jobs, protection from unfair dismissal, and an emphasis on collective bargaining.
“There is still plenty of unfinished business for unions, including one set of laws for all workers through the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
“Ensuring that all workers have the best possible standards of occupational health and safety is also a priority for unions.”