Tim Gooden

On April 15, Geelong unionists hosted a reception for Ark Tribe, an Adelaide construction worker facing six months in jail for refusing to be interrogated by the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). Tribe was invited to the meeting by the Geelong Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union Shop Stewards Committee.

Congratulations to Victorian Electrical Trades Union secretary Dean Mighell for his frank comment in the February 11 Age (“Unions must leave Labor”).

“Delivering for all Working Australians” was the slogan for the 2009 Australian Council of Trade Unions congress held June on 2-4. This raises the question — what if you are not working or an Australian citizen? But the congress will not be remembered for such philosophical questions — there were many more immediate issues at stake.

At first glance it seems like just about everyone is pleased with the federal government’s car industry bailout. The car industry bosses are delighted. The car industry unions are happy.

Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union official Noel Washington appeared at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on October 31. He is charged with refusing to be forcefully interrogated by the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

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The global financial crisis isn’t just clipping the wings of grossly overpaid bank executives and speculators in shonky “financial instruments”. It’s going to hit ordinary working people hard.

To lobby or not to lobby? Fortunately for the Australian union movement our forebears in the union leaderships didn’t spend much time trying to answer this question. Campaigns were more direct and more successful than today’s so-called strategies of “boxing smart” and “keeping your powder dry”.

Fifty ambulance officers and paramedics campaigning for more staff and better conditions bailed up Victorian health minister Daniel Andrews as he visited Geelong on September 19.

Workers at Huyck Wagner in Breakwater have been trying to negotiate a new wage agreement for several months. The boss’s offer of a 2% pay rise would mean, given current inflation, a pay cut in real terms.

When does a worker, even a casual or part-time worker, join a union? When it’s clear that membership brings better pay, working conditions and job security. Why, then, is union membership among workers at an all-time low? Because in so many industries union membership doesn’t seem to bring these benefits.

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