Unions must be campaigners: ACTU

The trade union movement should be a permanent campaigning force, ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver says.


At the start of the council’s triennial gathering in Melbourne on Tuesday, Mr Oliver conceded it was a significant mistake to dismantle the successful anti-Work Choices campaign infrastructure.

“As long as I’m here, we will not make that mistake again,” he told delegates, while insisting unions were ready to fight for living standards in the lead-up to next federal election.

Mr Oliver said lessons have been learnt since the ‘Your Rights at Work’ campaign, which helped defeat the Howard government.

It was wrong to dismantle the campaigning infrastructure, which had been built up over many years, after the 2007 election, he admitted.

“We literally went from overnight from being a campaigning movement to a transactional movement.”

The ACTU’s strategic plan in the lead-up to the next federal election will be about not only building campaigning capacity, but keeping it, he said.

Mr Oliver, who formally put himself forward for a second term as secretary, urged congress to back the strategy.

It will include an increase in affiliation fees to help build a multi-million dollar war chest.

He urged delegates and their unions to come together to fight for workers’ rights and against the Abbott government’s royal commission into trade unions and productivity commission inquiry into workplace relations.

President Ged Kearney, who is also seeking re-election, said the social wage was again under threat, like it was in 2007.

“Isn’t it funny how history repeats itself,” she told the gathering.

It was time to commit to building a strong campaigning infrastructure, Ms Kearney added.

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