15 June 2012
I flew to Sydney today to attend the ACTU Congress, which takes place every 3 years. This year more than 2 thousand people attend, most are Australian union officials. I got permission to attend as Observer, representing CPVW.
Lots of stuff take place at this Congress. Here I’ll blog about only some that I found interesting:
1. A report by the Youth Committee, saying that thousands of young people had never heard of unions, and that’s scary because youths are the future of the union movement. The Committee came up with some ideas, such as talks in schools and allowing young people to maintain union membership without paying union dues as they move from job to job.
2. A large group of Vietnamese garment workers went on the stage and one spoke about how the TCFUA union helped them to fight exploitation by way of legislation which got passed at Parliament in March after years of campaigning by TCFUA.
The highlight of the second day’s morning is the report by Mr Brian Howe on insecure work (1st PHOTO). His Inquiry team received hundreds of submissions and witnesses who talked about waiting daily for the phone call “there’s work for you tomorrow” and how bad such insecure work is.
The 2nd PHOTO shows a group of workers, including a Vietnamese garment outworker, from various unions fighting insecure work. At the podium is ACTU President Ged Kearney talking about the need for a long term and wide-ranging ACTU strategy to fight insecure work.
The 3rd PHOTO is of AWU National Secretary Paul Howes moving a motion on such a strategy.
In a side session (NO PHOTO) on challenges to unions in developing nations, the audience heard from unionists in PNG, East Timor, Fiji, and Western Sahara. I rose to say that like Fiji which is ruled by a military dictatorship, Vietnam is under a one-party dictatorship regime which outlaws unions and jails those who advocate unionism, including 3 of my colleagues: Chuong-Hung-Hanh.
THIRD AND FINAL DAY
The highlight of today, to me, was reports by the Nurses Unions in Victoria and New South Wales. They ran huge and well planned grassroots campaigns which forced their State governments to abandon plans to abolish nurse/patient ratios. Unfortunately I was busy clapping and cheering and forgot to take photos.
The fights by the teachers unions in Cleveland and in Ohio in the US (PHOTO) were no less jaw-droppingly successful and inspiring. After calling half a million phone numbers, collecting perhaps 2 million signatures in total, and door knocking an untold number of doors, they succeeded in unseating 2 Senators in Cleveland and stopping a law in Ohio that would have outlawed collective bargaining.
The Congress dinner last night was huge. Inspiring speeches by Paul Keating, Bill Kelty, Bob Hawke, and others. A bit long, though.
At the ACTU Congress