Since its formation in 1927, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has been the peak trade union body in Australia. The ACTU consists of affiliated unions and State and regional trades and labour councils. There are currently 43 ACTU affiliates. They have approximately 1.8 million members who are engaged across a broad spectrum of industries and occupations in the public and private sector and who have been at the forefront of Australia’s public health, economic and policy response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The Coronavirus crisis has exposed fault-lines in Australia’s economy, labour market and OHS system that must be addressed. The crisis has plunged millions of workers into unemployment or job insecurity and has hit some of the most disadvantaged workers, young people, women and temporary visa workers, the hardest. Australia needed a response to the crisis that not only addressed the direct impacts of the virus on our economy and community, but which also acknowledged and addressed the pre-existing weaknesses in our economy.
Unfortunately, this is not, in many cases, the response we received. In a number of instances, the Government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis has either failed to address pre-existing issues or has actually exacerbated them due to loopholes or gaps in support programs which have left workers exposed to losing their employment, going to work sick, becoming sick at work or to having their rights whittled away. It is a depressing reality that those workers who were being left behind in the pre-COVID-19 economy have been largely abandoned to the vicissitudes of the market by the Government’s poorly considered responses to Coronavirus.
This is particularly disappointing because much as occurred after World War 2, the COVID-19 crisis represents an opportunity to rebuild the Australian economy on fairer lines, to create job security and prosperity for millions of Australian workers. Australians have, over the course of this crisis, seen the power and efficacy of the government when mobilised for the good of Australians – this cannot be allowed to end when the crisis does.