Edited version of an address by Hon Shaoquett Moselmane MLC at the NSW Parliament on Thursday 18 February 2021.
I will speak about the work of unions and their achievements in protecting workers and their families, but first I thank the Hon Greg Donnelly for offering me his speaking spot.
The Hon Greg Donnelly is an honourable man and a real gentleman. He is a family man, a man of faith first and foremost, and a union man. His Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association [SDA] union protects retail, fast food and warehousing industry workers.
If he had his way, he would fight every moment of every day for every worker across the State.
In preparing this short contribution, I came across a page on the website australianunions.org.au headed “Unions Achievements”. It noted that just about everything good about people’s working lives is because of unions. “We can back it,” it boasts.
Unions have been the backbone of working people in this State for generations. Because of unions, Australian workers continue to receive the respect and protections they deserve from greedy profiteers.
Unions in Australia have achieved much, including the right to annual leave. Paid annual leave was first given to workers after a campaign by printing workers in 1936, and that campaign continues to this day.
Unions also helped to establish awards, which are legally binding documents that set out minimum entitlements for workers in every industry, underpinning pay and terms and conditions of employment.
They are unique to Australia and are integral in ensuring that workers get fair pay for a fair day’s work. Other achievements include penalty rates, maternity leave, superannuation and equal pay for women.
Health and safety and workers compensation laws have helped enforce behaviour that ensure health and safety for workers. Then there is sick leave, long service leave, redundancy pay, shift allowance, uniform allowance, meal breaks, rest breaks and so forth.
Then came enterprise bargaining, introduced in 1996, which allowed workers and their unions to negotiate pay and conditions directly with employers.
Protection from unfair dismissal is another achievement. Unions campaigned hard for such laws, which reflect the “fair go” principle. Today we campaign against wage theft and for wage justice.
Unions are truly committed to workers and to leaving no-one behind. Unions NSW has developed a comprehensive directory for workers and their families called No Worker Left Behind.
It is a great service that is available to Australian residents and to migrant and multicultural communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes information on emergency food assistance, accommodation and housing, charities and NGOs, mental health services, education, immigration and so forth.
One can only commend the people behind such great humanitarian initiatives—unions going beyond their roles to help those in need during troubled times.
In a speech on 10 February 2021 the Leader of the Federal Opposition, Anthony Albanese, committed Labor to a secure Australian jobs plan.
The plan includes insertion of explicit reference to job security into the Fair Work Act, rights for gig economy workers through the Fair Work Commission, portable entitlements for workers in insecure industries, proper definition of casual work in law, a crackdown on cowboy labour hire firms to guarantee “same job, same pay”, a cap on back-to-back short-term contracts for the same role, an end to inappropriate temporary contracts for public sector jobs, and government contracts going to companies and organisations that offer secure work for their employees.
Congratulations to Anthony Albanese, Australian Unions and Unions NSW for keeping up the fight. Each of these achievements did not happen by accident; they were fought for by people who are committed to the rights of all workers.
Without unions, some greedy employers would take workers down the path of exploitation and abuse. Today, we should be proud of these outcomes. We should continue to support our unions and our workers and we must continue to be vigilant.