Huge success at ETU's officer conference in Canberra

Nicholas McCallum

Canberra's cold winter didn't stop the ETU from marching on Parliament. 

In its 99th year as a federated industrial organisation, the Electrical Trades Union of Australia came out of this year’s Officers Conference in Canberra stronger than ever.

Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek opened what proved to be an energising and engaging conference for our officers and guests in June.

In welcoming the delegates to the conference, ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks said there was urgent need for unions to “make a stand now or Australians workers in all industries and trades will be stripped of all the union movement has fought for this past century”.

The ETU and CEPU delegates were also joined by international guests, including Jorgen Rasmussen, General Secretary of DEF Denmark, Bernard McAuley, National Officer for Construction at Unite UK, New Zealand’s E tū National Secretary Bill Newson and Selwyn Russell, National Vice President of MUNZ.

In the lead in to the National Officers Conference, the ETU held its first Women’s Conference in tandem with the Apprentices’ Conference. The Women’s Conference led to a reaffirmation of the need to have affirmative action roles within the union and the Apprentices’ meet wrapped with the announcement of the Apprentice of the Year, a 20-year-old woman from Brisbane named Ariah Goodluck.

The Australia Institute’s Dr Richard Denniss also spoke at the conference about the decay of the neo-liberal economic model and how we can ask the right questions about alternatives.

“If we’ve had 27 years of economic growth, why can’t we afford the sh*t we did 27 years ago?” Dr Dennis asked the members,

“You don’t need to know the answer,” he added. All we have to do is ask the question to those who defend cuts to services with claims we can no longer afford them.

Ask them why! And keep asking why, is Denniss’ best advice.

The ETU conference coincided with a march on parliament, with ETU members joining about 2000 more industrial trade unionists, with our National Secretary addressing the crowd alongside politicians and ACTU Secretary Sally McManus with a loud call to Change the Rules and put working Australians first before profits.

“Australia’s trade union movement now finds itself in the fight for its life,” Mr Hicks said. “It’s now or never.

“We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to end the assault on workers and reshape the laws in favour of workers. But we must do this together.

“The ETU must stand as one and in unity with all our brothers and sisters across the Australian union movement.

“When we stand together, when we fight together we win together. And I am proud to see our union is standing as one, ready to take on the government and Change the Rules to make a fairer Australia,” he said.

The next officers conference will be held in Darwin in 2019, marking 100 years since the federation of the ETU.

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