Australian Council of Trade Unions

The economic slow down means the Coalition will either abandon its promise of increasing budget surpluses and increase government spending — on infrastructure for instance — to stimulate the economy or it will double down on its commitment to a surplus, necessitating spending cuts. Its track record suggests the latter, writes Graham Mathews.

Activists from the Australian Council of Trade Union’s campaign to “change the rules” for workers were told the day before pre-polling started that its official how-to-vote for the May 18 federal election would call on voters to put Labor first.

Disappointed, though not too surprised by the decision, some activists have decided not to hand out for the campaign.

Thousands of trade unionists marched through Sydney streets on October 23 as part of nationwide “Change The Rules” mobilisations coordinated by the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

Under the slogan “Australia needs a pay rise”, an estimated 170,000 trade union members and their supporters filled Melbourne’s CBD on October 23 for the Australian Council of Trade Unions-initiated Change the Rules rally.

Thousands of trade union members rallied in Perth's Solidarity Park on October 18 to kick off the nationwide series of Change the Rules protests organised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).

Workers from five Alcoa sites throughout Western Australia voted at a mass meeting in Pinjarra on September 28 to end their seven-week strike. The vote occurred after the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU), which covers the 1600 Alcoa workers, secured an agreement guaranteeing job security and ensuring that no workers would be replaced through casualisation, contracting or labour-hire companies.

More than 1700 delegates from 40 unions attended a mass meeting at the Melbourne Convention Centre on September 25, where they voted to hold an all-unions march and rally next month. Present at the mass delegates meeting were unions covering workers in the health, construction, education, public, transport and manufacturing sectors, among others.

Australia Workers' Union (AWU) members at Alcoa refinery plants and bauxite mines in Western Australia have been on strike since August 8. At stake in the dispute is the job security of 1600 workers. To mark the strike’s 20th day, site meetings were held on August 27 at the ongoing picket lines set up outside Alcoa workplaces in Pinjarra, Kwinana, Wagerup, Huntley and Willowdale.

Former national secretary of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) Michele O’Neil was elected president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) at its congress in Brisbane over July 17 and 18. She replaces Ged Kearney, who won the seat of Batman, now renamed Cooper, in Melbourne in March. Sally McManus remains secretary. The following is her President’s Address to the congress.

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The latest round of penalty rate cuts, which reduce weekend and public holiday penalty rates for staff in the retail, hospitality and pharmacy sectors by 10–15% from July 1, is estimated by the ACTU to affect 700,000 workers.

Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association national secretary Gerard Dwyer said the penalty rate cuts would cost many retail and fast food workers between $2000 and $6000 a year.

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