ACTU Secretary Sally McManus told the 9 May rally that change doesn’t happen by sitting on the sidelines – it’s time to stop defending and start advancing.
‘Change happens by us making it happen. Rules change because we insist they change. We know power doesn’t give in without a demand.’
Ms McManus said unions had kept the flame for the fair go alive for over 20 years, defending workers’ rights since the Howard government’s attacks on working people.
In an earlier address to the National Press Club she spoke of a range of rules that need to change to redress the power imbalance between employers and working people. These include the enterprise bargaining system, where the rules for bargaining are stacked against workers.
Currently, huge numbers of people are being forced onto awards which have been hollowed out and do not offer protection for working people against the power of big business. Employers terminating agreements has become commonplace, meaning bargaining is conducted under the threat of loss of previously negotiated wages and conditions.
Among changes to the enterprise bargaining system, the right of all workers to withdraw their labour must be brought into line with International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards.
In our field, we need to start with legislating staffing ratios in aged care, where chronic understaffing over the past 13 years has seen a 400 per cent increase in the preventable deaths of elderly Australians.