The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is looking to unite its movement to target aged care, disability and health to campaign against growing casualization of jobs.
Sally McManus became the ACTU’s first female secretary on Tuesday and said her focus would be on growing the union movement in new areas that specifically include health, disability and aged care, and improving workers’ rights.
In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Ms McManus said many new jobs created in Australia are part-time or casual, contributing to growing inequality and job insecurity.
“We will end up like the US unless we change the rules,” she said.
“The job of the union movement is to lead a movement of people who all agree that we don’t want that kind of society.”
Ms McManus said the priorities of the union movement have shifted and with 52 per cent of its members being women, the ACTU needs to better reflect their interests.
Meanwhile in a National Press Club address on Wednesday, Greens leader Richard Di Natale said Australia needs to have a conversation about shorter working weeks.
“It’s time we recognised there are big questions we’re not asking ourselves. What sort of society do we want to be?” he said in an interview with the ABC earlier in the week.
“What does the future of work in this country look like? How do we deal with the fact that wages have remained stagnant but productivity has gone through the roof?”
As an example he cited Sweden’s six hour working day in the aged care industry to increase productivity.
Di Natale said the Greens have a work-life-balance bill before parliament.
“If you are an individual employee, it should be alright to request flexible work hours and it should be up to the employer to prove why you can’t have them,” he said.
“We have to start making progress in this area, because we have so many people in this country who are working more hours than they should.
“At the same time, we have so many people who are underemployed or indeed unemployed.”
According to the University of Melbourne’s 2015 HILDA study, 16 per cent of all employed people would prefer to work more hours each week, while about 26 percent would prefer to work fewer hours.
In terms of how long it might take to unionize health and aged care, Ms said it won’t happen overnight but she is confident it will happen.
“It took nurses and teachers about 50 years to do it. It also took the manufacturing unions about 50 years to do it,” she said.
“It will be a matter of time.”