Farewell note to Peter Tighe, working-class warrior of the ETU

Nicholas McCallum

A life spent standing up for workers and their safety. 

Today, we say a heartfelt thanks to a real working-class warrior who has served the Electrical Trades Union for decades and fought for the safety of Australian workers every day of his working life. 

Today, Peter Tighe, a man who served as National Secretary for the ETU for two decades, will step into the next stage of his life: a well-earned retirement. 

For the past few years Peter has headed up the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency where he’s continued his life-long work of standing up for the safety of Australians. 

Former ETU National President-Secretary Peter Tighe.

Peter has always made workers’ health and safety his priority - be they young, old, apprentices or master tradies, Peter has had their back. 

He was elected as a union organiser in 1983, after spending 17 years on the tools. 

Then in 1991, he ascended to the role of National Secretary of the ETU where he served the union and its 60,000-plus members until 2013. Peter also became the first secretary of the the Communications, Electrical and Plumbers Union in 1994, when the ETU merged with the Communications Workers Union, which was comprised of more than 120,000 members across Australia. 

"I didn't come into the union for my own betterment and glory," Peter said when he stepped down. "But I know my work has been recognised by my peers and that's all the matters." 

ETU members with Peter at the Gold Coast Hospital site in 2011.

Peter and current ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks (left).

In those 22 years in the top job, Peter never backed down from a fight – no matter who brought it. 

Whether it was battling union-busting Tories and their privatisation pushes or scrapping with comrades in the unfortunate but unavoidable internal squabbles of the union movement, Peter put the members first. 

Peter embodies the term “Union Man” and spent most of his working life fighting for members of the ETU and CEPU and for working men and women across Australia. Their safety was his priority. 

Peter with wife Annette Moran and family at at 2006 Your Rights at Work Rally.

In 2013 Peter was awarded Occupational Health and Safety Campaigner of the year.

Ged Kearney, then-ACTU President, said Peter had made an enormous contribution to improving workplace health and safety standards in Australia.

“Peter has always taken a keen interest in the health and safety of all workers, especially young workers and apprentices,” she said.

APHEDA Dinner 2017 with Matt Peacock and son Robbie Tighe.

ACTU President Ged Kearney, ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver, ETU-CEPU National Secretary Peter Tighe and Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick, pictured in 2013.

It’s thanks to Peter’s hard work and vision that the ETU remained strong through the 1980s, '90s and 2000s and brought more electrical workers into the fold when other trades were being forced to relax their standards. 

It’s a legacy we fight hard to build upon every day. 

So I know you’ll join me in thanking Peter Tighe for his lifetime of dedication to fighting the good fight as he heads off on well-earned holiday in the next stage of his life. 

Allen Hicks

National Secretary



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