Labor has always been the party for working people. We must never lose sight of this role.
Right now working families across the state are facing a Liberal government determined to strip away as many of their workplace rights as quickly as they can.
Labor must start to develop policies that will redress the imbalance this creates. These policies should be ready to go on our first day back in power.
Five years of working in the basements of city buildings talking with and organising cleaners and other low paid workers has given me a perspective on workers rights that many others don’t have.
Exploitation and unfairness are not things of the past. Unions are not ‘useful then, an obstruction now’. Unions are absolutely essential for a civilised, fair society. Historically, they have proven to be the only effective bulwark against economic and political tyranny.
NSW Labor will need to address the right of unions organise, and the enforcement of Award and other entitlements, abuse of which is rife.
There is much that State Governments can do to help or hinder unions. For example, the NSW Office of Industrial Relations, which assists with enforcement of industrial awards and other matters to do with registration and administration of unions, has had its staff cut from 157 to 109 under O’Farrell. The people who suffer from this are those who are paid cash in hand, who, in my experience, want to join unions and want to be paid properly. We need to have policies that get us back to a fair bargaining relationship between workers and employers.
I also support an independent NSW Industrial Relations Commission that can lead the way, through its decisions for NSW public sector workers, in improving the lives and working conditions of all NSW working people.
I don’t accept that a national IR system has to mean lowering standards for NSW workers, to match those in states that have lower costs of living and fewer workers organised into unions.
Even with national IR laws, NSW Labor can do a lot in Government to improve the lives and workplaces of the citizens of NSW.