By Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane
Before I begin I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land that we are on and pay my respects to their elders past and present

For those of you who don’t know, Unions NSW has been fighting for the rights of working people in one form or another since 1871. One of their original fights prior to them being unionised under one umbrella was for the Eight Hour Day for skilled tradespeople in the 1850s, and this would be expanded later to include all other workers who were missing out.

The Trades and Labor Council of Sydney (as it was called until 1908) allowed labourers to organise alongside the skilled trades unions to improve their rights, conditions and wages. By the 1950s, the Labor Council led a campaign for equal wages for women, and their right to equal pay was locked into law in 1972 by Gough’s Labor government.

In the post-war years the Labor Council fought and won battles for the introduction of leave entitlements and a reduction in working hours. Later, the Labor Council led campaigns for a 35-hour week, which while unsuccessful in the short term, pushed Australia towards the 38-hour week that we have taken for granted since the 1980s.

o The Labor Council was also instrumental in establishing the first work-based childcare centre in Australia. 

With the onset of the 1980s-90s recessions, Unions NSW played a key role in ensuring decent standards of redundancy payments for workers forced out by technological change and restructuring. 
Some other recent achievements by Australia’s unions include:

1. Penalty Rates for weekend and holiday work – originally established in 1947, when unions argued in the then-Arbitration Commission that people needed extra money for working outside normal hours.

2. Parental leave - Australian unions’ intensive campaigning for paid parental leave succeeded when the Paid Parental leave scheme was implemented by the Gillard Labor government. 

3. Superannuation - Prior to 1986, only a select group of workers were entitled to Superannuation. It became a universal entitlement after the ACTU's National Wage Case. Employers originally had to pay 3% of workers' earnings into Superannuation and this has risen over time, from 9% and then to 12% thanks to the 2011 the Unions’ “Stand Up for Super” campaign worked with the then-Labor Government.

4. Equal Pay for Women - Although there were attempts to introduce equal pay going back as far as 1949, the principle of equal pay for women was finally adopted by Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in 1969 and legislated later by Gough whitlam.

5. Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation – Australian workers compensation laws first started in West Australia in 1902. For many years unions agitated and campaigned for health and safety laws which compelled employers to provide a safe working environment, leading to achievements like the ban on asbestos in the 1980’s.

6. Sick leave and long service leave - Before sick leave, workers had to choose between their health and their income. Sick leave provisions began to appear in awards in the 1920’s and unions have campaigned hard for better sick leave conditions since then across all industries. One worthwhile note is, thanks to the efforts of Coal worker strikes and their unions long service leave was introduced in New South Wales first in 1951.

7. Shift allowances, uniform allowances - Unions in different industries have campaigned for allowances that are relevant to their members. Many workers who are required to wear uniforms in their jobs now get an allowance for this rather than having to pay for uniforms themselves. Shift allowances are money that is paid for working at night or in the afternoon.

8. Meal Breaks, rest breaks - Before unions agitated for meal breaks and rest breaks to be introduced, workers were required to work the whole day without a break. As late as 1973, workers at Ford in Melbourne engaged in industrial action over many issues, one of their demands being a proper break from the production line.

9. Collective Bargaining - Enterprise Bargaining was introduced in 1996 which allowed workers and their unions to negotiate directly with their employer over pay and conditions. Evidence from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that collective bargaining delivers better wages than individual agreements for ordinary workers.

10. Unfair Dismissal Protection - Unfair Dismissal Protection came from the concept of a "fair go all round", after the AWU took a case to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in 1971. Since then, unions have campaigned for laws that reflect the 'fair go', so that employers can only sack someone if the dismissal is not judged harsh, unjust or unreasonable.

Each of these achievements did not happen by accident: they were results fought for by our trade unions and which have been resisted by captains of industry and finance.

o Today, we should be proud of these outcomes, but we cannot stop fighting. The Liberal-National Coalition has always been opposed to the work of our unions, and we must continue the struggle to protect our current state and improve the lives of future generations.

o To hear more about the good work still being done today, please join me in welcoming the Secretary of Unions NSW, my friend Mark Morey.



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