Unions discuss politics in the Illawarra

South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris.

On October 20, 50 people attended a forum, “Politics, the Union Movement and the Illawarra”, organised by the South Coast Labour Council (SCLC).

Speakers included Darin Sullivan, president of the NSW Fire Brigade Employees Union; Naomi Arrowsmith, Illawarra organiser of the Australian Services Union; and Nicole Calnan, regional organiser of the NSW Teachers’ Federation.

Members of the United Services Union, the Maritime Union of Australia, the Australian Workers’ Union, the National Tertiary Education Union, the Public Service Association, the Greens and the Socialist Alliance were also present.

Arthur Rorris, secretary of SCLC, who introduced the speakers, explained the forum had been called to discuss politics because “politics is how we change the world”.

“The SCLC will not be endorsing candidates for the NSW elections; we are here to develop the thinking of our movement politically”, he said.

Speakers discussed the legacy of former prime minister John Howard’s anti-union laws and were very critical of ALP governments, both state and federal.

Sullivan explained the advantages of disaffiliating from the ALP. “This has allowed us to voice our opinions more robustly and more publicly when it comes to the pursuits of our members’ working conditions. We will not send money to an organisation, which in our opinion, was acting directly against the interests of our members.”

In the NSW election, Sullivan said, “the FBEU plans to give open support to candidates who openly support us, and we plan to actively oppose those candidates that don’t”.

Arrowsmith discussed how the ASU used the federal election campaign to the need to politicise union members. They organised “meet the candidates” forums where candidates were asked to sign a pledge that they would support funding for the ASU’s campaign for equal pay.

ASU members were made aware of candidates who signed the pledge. She said not one Liberal candidate had attended a forum or signed the pledge.

Calnan slammed the ALP for lack of consultation with teachers.