Once every three years the Australian trade union movement gets together for the ACTU Congress. The Congress is effectively the Workers' Parliament - the peak decision-making body for the union movement, and a chance to map out a national agenda for working people.
This year's ACTU Congress was held in Brisbane, and the RTBU was front-and-centre. We had a full delegation of representatives from all States, with a number of members from Queensland also coming along as observers.
A major theme of Congress was the ACTU's Change the Rules campaign for secure jobs and better pay. This campaign will only get louder and bigger as we head into a Federal election campaign.
Importantly, the Congress is where the leadership positions if the ACTU are decided. Sally McManus was elected as Secretary, and Michele O'Neil (National Secretary of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union before its merger with the CFMEU was elected to replace Ged Kearney as President. RTBU National Secretary Bob Nanva remains a Vice President of the ACTU.
Some of the highlights of the Congress included:
Sally McManus' opening address;
St Vincent de Paul chief John Falzon's withering attack on neo-liberalism;
Bob Nanva's passionate call for trade unionists to take up the fight against the forces of privilege;
And Lethal Weapon star, and labour activist, Danny Glover, who fired everyone up!
Apart from speeches and presentations on how the union movement is fighting to change the rules, Congress also discussed a comprehensive policy agenda for the union movement to take forward. A number of initiatives were proposed or seconded by the RTBU, including:
- Calling for a new approach to reduce transport-related greenhouse gases by increasing the use of urban public transport;
- Creating a 'Future of Work Forum' to develop government policy on addressing the challenges of automation;
- Calling for the Federal Government to undertake a new study into linking Sydney, Canberra, Wollongong and Newcastle via fast train, and set up a Task Force with the States to pursue fast rail projects; and
- Committing to stronger national rail safety laws, with mandated minimum shift breaks and maximum shift lengths, in order to protect workers from the risks of fatigue.
PALM ISLAND STRIKE OF 1957
The role of trade unions in supporting the Palm Island 1957 Strike commemorations and issues such as stolen wages and Community Development Programs (CDP) was the focus of a workshop at Congress on "‘How to be a Good Ally - Indigenous Organising".
RTBU Branch Organiser Les Moffitt gave a fantastic presentation to the workshop.
The RTBU is proud of its continuing role in promoting indigenous rights at work and in the community.
You can read more details about Les's presentation and the Palm Island Strike in the latest edition of Palm Island Voice.