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Rockhampton Council worker wins QLD Delegate of the Year

February 9, 2023

When it comes to the union saving your job, AWU Queensland Delegate of the Year Mick has first-hand experience – it recently saved his!

Mick has worked at Rockhampton Regional Council since 2005, and joined the AWU in 1999.

But his belief in union membership goes back to around 1980, when he became the third generation of his family to work in the two local meatworks.

It’s also where he gained an appreciation of the importance of being in a union that he carries to this day.

In 1997 Mick started working at the local sports club, joined the AWU, then moved to “Rocky” council, where he soon became a delegate.

“We had a lot of good delegates at the meat works,” Mick says.

“When I finished there and went out into other parts of the workforce I could see a lot of the staff were not as educated about the benefits of being in a union as I was, after my time there.”

Mick says it was apparent that workers needed guidance. They needed to believe.

“They were often scared, didn’t want to speak up or cause any trouble might cause them to lose their job,” he says

“But being a union member is easy if you believe in it and can see the benefits

“It’s just a matter of getting people to take that first step and come on the journey with you.”

QLD Branch Secretary Stacey Schinnerl, National President Marina Chambers, National Secretary Daniel Walton, Mick, and former QLD Branch Secretary Steve Baker at the AWU 2022 National Conference

Mick is one of four delegates on the council, representing more than 100 members.

“They are a good bunch of men and women. And if we are upfront and honest with them and gain their trust they will buy the product we are trying to sell.

“And they will tell us stuff they won’t tell the council or HR, as they know it will be confidential and we can speak on their behalf.”

Mick and his members have run a number of successful campaigns, including a recent EBA where he and previous organiser Peter Ward won site allowances for all outdoor staff.

The campaign included rallies outside the town hall, but it was up to Mick and the other delegates to keep the pressure on.

“You can get a lot of guys to one or two rallies, but you’ve got to keep talking to them about the benefits of what they are doing – it’s that old saying: short-term pain, long-term gain.”

Mick (left) with newly-elected delegate Rockhampton City Council Michael (right).

It was during a more recent campaign that Mick had his own unpleasant brush with  management.

He and AWU organiser Craig Sell were compiling a survey of all outdoor staff – union and non-union – in response to the council’s poor workplace culture and double standards.

Before they could launch it Mick was “terminated” over a minor workplace incident.

But he kept working on the questionnaire “as it was important to get it right”, and he was sure he had the union’s backing.

“I knew I’d get a fair crack, as the AWU was going to represent me. We went to the Industrial Commission and to mediation and I got offered a job back.”

It’s a lesson, he says, for everyone, especially potential new members

“If you get called up to the office you are sitting there with your supervisor, HR, and a manager and you are on own it’s pretty daunting

“But knowing you have the support and solidarity of your union and workmates holds you in good stead.”

Mick is proud that the union also offers backing in other, less formal ways.

“Being in the union gives you a sense of being in a family.

“For example from time to time we can have workers who are having a hard time, say off on stress leave

“Union members are always the first to chip in and run a raffle to raise money to support them.

“It gives those workers a sense of belonging, that we’ve got your back, and it builds camaraderie

“And when those people who have had a bad time return to work they are the next ones to help.”

Mick and Stacey celebrating a huge 2022 for the AWU.
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