May Day

11 May 2017

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Madam Speaker, I wish to take the opportunity to note the events that took place here in Canberra to commemorate the International Workers’ Day, or May Day as it more commonly referred to.

On Monday last week I had the pleasure of attending a May Day Picnic for Penalty Rates in Ainslie Place.

The picnic was organised by two passionate CPSU members, Ben Halliday and Nick Dixon-Wilmhurst and attended by around 30 local workers.

As well as draw attention to issues facing workers today, such as penalty rates, we were also reminded May Day is a day of observance for those lives lost at a labour rally proposing an eight hour working day.

I thank those union members who organised the event and all of my colleagues who stood together in solidarity.

I was also proud to be invited to and attend the UnionsACT May Day Awards on Friday 29 May.

The annual awards recognise people who have made a significant contribution to improving and advancing the conditions of working people in the ACT.

I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate everyone who was nominated for awards on the night.

By noting the achievements of some of the recipients today in the Chamber, it also serves to highlight some of the challenges that workers in the ACT face.

I wish to congratulate Ron Marks, an active member of the CPSU for almost 20 years. Ron was a workplace delegate in the Australia Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for 10 years.

His dedication and diligence in performing the role meant he gained wide respect from members and colleagues in his workplace.

Ron spearheaded a safeguard campaign within the APVMA as it was being relocated and fought for improved support for staff.

He represented his colleagues at the bargaining table from the APVMA’s commencement in 2013 and Ron continued to play a pivotal role in bargaining, even as the agency was being relocated.

While Ron won’t have to move because he has now retired, this didn’t stop his commitment to his co-workers as he continued to campaign on their behalf.

He kept fighting against the move, and for improved support for staff while the relocation took place.

Ron also fronted the Senate inquiry to give evidence on the impact the decision to move the agency has had on APVMA staff.

Congratulations Ron on your contribution to workers in your workplace.

I hope Ron continues the fight the workers’ rights as he enjoys his well earned retirement.

I would also like to applaud the workplace delegates from the National Gallery of Australia.

This group of seven fantastic delegates continue a tradition of excellence within the NGA team.

The delegates have shown a strong willingness to actively represent the interests of their colleagues.

As CPSU members, they have also offered enthusiastic support to the union campaign against Federal cuts to the cultural institutions that grace the national capital.

The group’s efforts were most felt in ensuring the NGA handled its 10% job cuts appropriately, seeking to minimise harm and shining a light on unfair practices.

The NGA delegates have together made a strong contribution to the NGA, the APS and the CPSU and thoroughly deserve their award.

I would also like to commend Pema Choden for her work in connecting the Bhutanese community in Canberra with the union movement and strengthening their understanding of the protections they have in the workplace.

Pema is here working on a student visa and has experienced abuse at work.

She knows many colleagues who were underpaid and others who did not receive superannuation contributions.

Pema also knows of workers who were threatened by their employer.

Coming from Bhutan, Pema was not aware of the union movement.

However, as she learned of the important work unions do, she quickly came to realise the assistance the union could provide her and her co-workers who were being exploited.

Pema sought to link the Australian Bhutanese Association of Canberra with United Voice and encouraged members to join the union.

This link has led to the organisations forging a Memorandum of Understanding which commits each of them to a cooperative working relationship.

United Voice and Australian Bhutanese Association of Canberra will shortly hold joint industrial rights training sessions for the Bhutanese community, building on an earlier session on visa and immigration rights.

Pema’s story shows how unions can work with the community to increase awareness of rights at work.

I would like to congratulate those who were recognised for their work and acknowledge the contribution of those who did not receive awards this year.

In noting their efforts here, it highlights the important work that unions, represented by their membership, undertake within our community.