Sally McManus on what Change the Rules is all about: Part 1

Nicholas McCallum

Changing the Government - that's just the start.  

Anyone believing the Change the Rules campaign is merely about changing the government needs to think again.

The Change the Rules campaign, which went into high gear in 2018, is about exactly what its name suggests: changing the rules that govern Australian workers, our workplaces and how we can negotiate for better wages and fairer conditions. 

Productivity is up, profits are up – bosses’ pay is up – but workers’ wages are going backwards compared to basic living costs.  

Sally McManus at Sydney Trades Hall.

To build the case for changes that can make our work – and our lives – more fair, this is the message all union members need to be sharing with family, friends and co-workers in the lead up to this year’s elections: We need to Change the Rules and make Australia fairer. 

In response, the Liberals are talking about themselves and offering more of the same failed trickle-down formula that gives power and wealth to corporations over working people. Working people need a pay rise. The Liberals and Nationals will never admit that, because they have no plan to deliver fair pay rises.  

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said that to Change the Rules, we need to put the concerns and needs of working people at the forefront of the coming federal election.

McManus addresses the crowd outside Parliament House, Canberra.

“It’s true that to Change the Rules, we need to change the government,” she said.

“The fact that the Morrison Government doesn’t have a plan for fair pay rises and won’t even admit insecure work is a problem means they won’t help get pay rises and more secure jobs.

“But there is no way that our work ends there. We will keep campaigning beyond the election, no matter what the result is, to Change the Rules for fair pay and more secure jobs.

”Change the Rules is about changing the rules. An election is a step along the way," said Sally amid a national tour for her book On Fairness, which was headed for a second print run after the first edition sold out. 

“We want to get in a space where politicians, all politicians, are afraid to come after workers’ rights. They can improve workers’ rights, but they can’t attack them.” 

The ALP has already committed to abolishing the ABCC and the ROC if it wins government while committing to other key components in the Change the Rules campaign.

A Shorten Labor Government will introduce a national labour hire licensing scheme and ensure equal pay for labour hire workers.

The ALP has agreed to end sham contracting and kill “zombie” WorkChoices agreements, repair and restore awards, and reinstate the weekend penalty rates the Liberal National Government voted eight times in favour of slashing.

However, a Labor win is only one victory on the road to success. How workers’ concerns get through the Senate is another hurdle to overcome. 

Outside the ALP, several key politicians have endorsed the Change the Rules campaign. The Greens and Bob Katter both backed the union platform while the Centre Alliance (formerly Nick Xenophon's party) said they were too busy and would return to it after the election.

Like usual, Pauline Hanson took the same position as the Liberals, shooting the proposals down with added attacks on workers and unions.

It’s important to keep work with the crossbenchers and their supporters because they are likely to have the balance of power after the election.

Many voters leaning towards independents and minor parties might be union, others might have been union once, but they are the people that we need to be reaching, reminding them what Change the Rules is about. 

“We will to keep the conversation going about workers’ rights, fair pay and secure work. That will continue to be our focus,” Sally said.  

“We will  be reaching new people and talking to members of the community who are not yet our members.

“If we only talk to people who are in the union, we aren’t going to win.”

We need to keep getting the word out. 

Check next month's e-news for part two of the ETU's interview with Sally McManus.

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