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ACTU Secretary Greg Combet's Report from Congress04 September 2003
The ACTU Congress which brought together 900 union delegates from across Australia to debate policies for the next three years was a great success, writes ACTU secretary Greg Combet.
This is the text of his report:
The atmosphere at the ACTU Congress 2003 defined its success.
An enthusiasm for change, and a sense of common purpose in building a better society, underpinned the four days of speeches, debates, presentations and discussions.
The belief and commitment was reflected in the unanimous support for our Statement of Australian Union Values, which sets out the unions' goals for a fairer Australia based on equality and opportunity for all.
But the purpose of the Congress was perhaps best summed up by truck driver Fiona O'Brien from Coppabella Mines in Queensland's Bowen Basin.
Fiona, 32, swapped fashion designing for driving in a mine production crew at Roche Contractors, hauling coal in a 250 tonne Caterpillar at an open-cut coal mine.
Fiona became inspired to become an active workplace delegate at her mine when the employer refused to discuss her concerns over roster changes.
Over a period of six months Fiona has achieved 68% union density in what was previously a workplace with low union membership.
Fiona has surveyed membership for workplace concerns, establishing regular meetings between management and delegates and achieving staff consultation over roster changes. Already she has secured back pay for some employees who were underpaid $4000 for annual leave.
"We have now created a forum in which people can be heard...Our workplace is now one in which staff are aware of their rights, the company is accountable for safety and we're having a hand in creating a future for our community," Fiona said.
Hundreds of delegates like Fiona took part in Congress debates to set a clear policy agenda for the next three years. At the top of the list are new strategies for wage justice, a fair go for casuals and a better deal for working families.
The unions also reaffirmed their commitment to increasing living standards through restored public services in health, education and childcare.
Specific policies authorised by the Congress include:
We need these and other new standards because changes in the way we work are making Australia less fair and less equal.
Twenty years ago three-quarters of jobs were full-time, 15% of jobs were casual or part-time, the majority of households had one care-giver at home and the average CEO salary was three times the salary of the average worker.
Today 27% of the workforce is casual, the majority of households have both care-givers in the workforce and CEO salaries are 30 times greater than average wages.
Despite Australia experiencing a period of strong economic performance, the wealth and opportunities are not being shared. Eighty seven per cent of the new jobs created in the 1990s paid less than $26,000 and out of these 48% paid less than $15,600. The net increase in jobs has been entirely part-time and casual.
The policies approved by the Congress 2003 provide some practical solutions to these problems. Unions and the ACTU will be working hard to put all the policies into action by the time of the next Congress in 2006.
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