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Big wins for workers at Labor National Conference

April 1, 2021

The Australian Workers’ Union has come up with the goods for workers and the nation at the Australian Labor Party’s 2021 National Conference.

Following campaigns led by the AWU, party platform changes mean a future Labor federal government will prioritise important advances in areas including manufacturing, resources and worker representation.

The ALP’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, announced at the conference by Federal Labor Leader Anthony Albanese, is a huge step to help rebuild Australia’s manufacturing industry, and comes partly in response to AWU campaigns in support of Australian workers and industry over foreign imports.

Key Labor platform changes secured by the AWU at the conference include:

  • Procurement policies to support Australian businesses and workers.
  • More support for Buy Australian programs.
  • Policies that maximise and require local-content on future renewable energy projects.
  • Labor will ensure vital goods such as food, medicines, water, communications, energy, personal protective equipment and other necessities required by a modern economy can be made in Australia.

AWU Acting National Secretary Misha Zelinsky said these changes would help build the nation and create jobs.

“83 per cent of jobs in manufacturing are good, secure jobs with many of these in regional Australia,” Mr Zelinsky said. “Australia needs more of these valuable industries and the jobs they create, not fewer.”

Part of the ALP’s commitment to boost manufacturing will involve urgently working to expand Australia’s vaccine and domestic pharmaceutical industries to keep Australians healthy.

“The shortages and supply-chain interruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic made plain the risks to Australia from an over-reliance on imports of critical materials and essential goods,” Mr Zelinsky said.

“Shortages in face masks, hand sanitiser and other personal protective equipment – and now vaccines – have shown that Australia urgently needs a strong, growing, high tech and diverse manufacturing industry.”

Another key platform change was recognition of the economic and employment contribution of Australia’s mining and extractive resources industries.

The conference agreed to the AWU’s motion highlighting the value of resources, especially in regional areas.

Under the new policy Labor:

  • Recognises and values the economic and employment contribution of Australia’s mining and extractive resources industries including iron ore, coal, uranium, nickle, rare earth, gold, copper, zinc, silver, gas, bauxite and others.
  • Notes the critical importance these industries play in Australia’s economic prosperity, particularly in Australia’s terms of trade and the need for a prosperous resources sector, particularly in regional Australia.
  • Recognises the important role that existing and emerging resources can play in the expansion of existing industries and the development of new renewable energy manufacturing industries in Australia.

“The ALP platform now recognises the important role existing and emerging resources can play in the expansion of existing industries, as well as in the development of new Australian renewable energy manufacturing industries,” Mr Zelinsky said.

“It will also encourage downstream processing of minerals, resources and energy products, and public and private investment in the necessary infrastructure.”

Conference delegates also voted for Labor to work with unions and business to support greater industry and workplace collaboration.

Studies overseas show huge benefits for all by having a worker representative at company board level. These studies show that workers are paid more, face less earnings risk and are more likely to be protected against layoffs during adverse industry shocks if they work in firms with worker representation on the board.

“Most advanced economies tend to focus on co-operation, where workers are viewed as contributors and core assets,” Mr Zelinsky said.

“The Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Singapore, Japan, Germany, Canada – all are top performers in the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness rankings and all top the charts in labour-employer co-operation.  Australia ranks 66th along with Uganda, Cambodia and the Dominican Republic.”

In a motion passed at the conference, Labor says it will encourage companies and unions to replicate the success of other nations in making employees real and valued stakeholders through representation on company boards.

It says that in government, Labor will work towards the implementation of an Australian model of worker board representation.

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