Organising to Change The Rules

CSIRO Staff Association organisers participated in the Australian Council of Trade Union’s (ACTU) National Conference in Sydney recently, joining union members and activists from across the country and around the world.

With an event theme ‘Next Gen’ conference organisers deliberately made the renewal and growth of the labour movement a top priority for attendees.

The conference also saw the formal confirmation of new ACTU Secretary Sally McManus.

McManus takes the reins

“Inequality is at a 70-year high. Wage growth hasn’t been this low since records started being kept,” Ms McManus said in a major note speech.

“The rules that were meant to protect our rights are now not strong enough. They need to be rewritten … we need to change the rules so working people have more power.”

Change The Rules

A key feature of the conference was the launch of a new campaign called Change The Rules.

‘Working people need better and stronger rights at work to keep up with the growing power of employers and to reverse growing inequality. The rules need to be re-written to achieve this,’ according to the campaign notes.

The ACTU has produced a website including a comprehensive campaign kit that maps out the challenges facing Australian workers and society as a whole.

Organiser experiences

New South Wales organiser Lachlan McSpedden attended a number of plenaries and workshops, with topics ranging from organising millennials to digital campaigning and creative union tactics.

One highlight was a presentation from Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress.

“Hassan highlighted the need for unions to move our image and actions from being seen as just strikes and protest.

“Unions need to reintroduce ourselves to people, promote achievements beyond the industrial sphere, the work that helps the culture and communities we work with,” Lachlan said.

Western Australia organiser Melanie Booth also drew some inspiration from University of California’s Hahrie Han.

“One standout for me was Hahrie Han who was honest about some of the internal barriers that we have to organising labour including union rules, traditions and personalities.

“Dr Han had some practical examples of how to break that down and to be effective for the medium to longer term and a subsequent workshop delved further into her theories of effective and long lasting organising,” Melanie said.

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