Vic electrical union votes to rejoin Labor

ETU Victoria secretary Troy Gray addressing workers at a rally. Photo: Vic Trades Hall / Twitter

The Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has decided to withdraw its financial support for federal Greens MP Adam Bandt and formally rejoin the Labor Party.

The branch disaffiliated from Labor in 2010 over the then-Kevin Rudd government's refusal to dismantle the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

ETU Victoria secretary Troy Gray told Fairfax Media that Labor's pledge to abolish the ABCC, together with the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ push to change industrial laws, had been enough to swing his union back to the party.

“Our members have had a look at it, and they want a seat at the table to keep Labor on track to deal with all these issues. Now is the time to be inside the tent making change. It’s now or never to tackle inequality and change the broken rules.

“Our members want us in the tent, kicking and screaming to ensure Labor addresses these problems. Changing the rules is far too important to be sitting on the political sidelines.”

The decision to reaffiliate with Labor was ratified by 350 delegates, representing 18,000 members, at the branch’s shop stewards’ conference on May 17.

The ETU said the Victorian branch has donated a total of $780,766 to Bandt’s federal election campaigns since 2010. At a state level the branch had supported the Daniel Andrews Labor government.

The ETU national office is not affiliated to any party under the union's federated structure. All state branches, with the exception of Victoria and Tasmania, were affiliated to the Labor Party.

Gray said it was likely the branch would now divert its financial support from Bandt to Labor: "We will be supporting Labor into the future," he said.

The ETU’s return to the fold is expected to be confirmed at Labor’s state conference on May 26. It comes as several unions have joined to form a new alliance called the Industrial Left, which is seeking more influence over the preselection of candidates in safe Labor seats, including the proposed new federal electorate of Fraser in Melbourne’s north-west.

The ETU is politically close to these unions, but Gray said the ETU wants to be an independent voice and would not automatically join the Industrial Left.

“We’ll be an independent union,” he said. “At the same time, industrially and socially we line up with the CFMEU and have for decades.”

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