ACTU calls on unions to step up support for refugees

Michele O'Neil speaking at a rally for refugees in April. Photo: Unionists for Refugees/FB

Australian Council of Trade Union’s president Michele O’Neil told an October 2 forum that the Coalition government’s attacks on refugees is a distraction from its failure to act on low wages, insecure work and climate change.

O’Neil added that refugees often work in jobs where wage theft and bullying are prevalent.

Cuts to income support payments have forced refugees into unsafe and exploitative jobs, she said, noting that unions must respond by encouraging refugees to join them.

The forum, organised by Unionists for Refugees, also heard from Victorian Trades Hall’s Migrant Workers Centre director Matt Kunkel. He said unions needed to ensure that refugees are “safe, respected and organised” and that unions should fight to make workplaces more inclusive.

Unions themselves need to become more diverse, Kunkel said.

Iranian refugee Ghanieh spoke of her difficulties in getting education and employment. She is now working for the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.

Lucy Honan from the Refugee Action Collective and Teachers for Refugees outlined how teachers could support refugees, including walking off the job to attend pro-refugee rallies.

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