Hours and training top union agenda

A SHORTER working week, better training, safer workplaces, job security, paid maternity leave and a more family-friendly approach to work issues are the key priorities of the union movement.

UnionsWA secretary Stephanie Mayman said workers had moved away from the view that wage rises were crucial.

She said the issue of a shorter working week was a major one for all workers and something the union movement would be pursuing.

Indeed, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union has already made a step towards the shorter working week in WA with its log of claims for a new enterprise bargaining agreement.

In that log it calls for the 36-hour divisor to be introduced for construction workers on its EBA from January 1.

The 36-hour week has been in place on building sites in Victoria for two years.

Ms Mayman said the Australian Council of Trade Unions was already making the running on the shorter working week nationally and that it would become a major issue for unions in WA.

“How each union will tackle that will be up to them,” Ms Mayman said.

“The CFMEU has chosen to use its EBA as its method. Other unions will use methods such as award updating.”

The issue of workplace safety looms as a major one for the union movement.

UnionsWA launched a campaign last week calling for the WA Government to increase the present monetary penalties from $200,000 to $2 million for a prosecution following a workplace death.

Ms Mayman said the union movement also wanted terms of imprisonment added to the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

She said recent surveys showed that a safe working environment was the single most important issue for WA workers.

The highest penalty ever imposed in WA for a prosecution following a fatal accident was $35,000.

“The Government has to change its views on safety,” Ms Mayman said.

She said the issue of family-friendly workplaces would become a growing issue, especially with Australia’s ageing population.

“We find workers have to look after not just their children, but also their own parents,” Ms Mayman said.

“Workers are also saying they want paid maternity leave and parental leave and leave to deal with family business.”

Training is seen as a big issue for WA workers.

Ms Mayman said the shortage of skilled workers would become apparent in Perth as work on the Burrup Peninsular intensified.

“Employers need to realise that there will be improvements to productivity from training,” she said.

“A competent workforce has benefits for the economy and the community.

“Some companies promote their environmental obligations and even obligations to the Indigenous community, but at the same time have no obligations to their workforce.

“People, in my view, are not embracing skill needs in that regard.”

Ms Mayman said the issues of the workers would become the issues of the trade union movement.

However, which matter it would pursue first was something that would be arranged through the union movement’s “decision making process”.

“I would rather any activity on these issues came from the workers themselves,” Ms Mayman said.

“That will mean grass roots organising campaigns. We want to see a groundswell from the workers.”

She said right of entry, a contentious issue when the new Industrial Relations Act came into effect, had not turned out to be a problem.

“The new act provides unions with the possibility to get into sites and encourage people to join unions and encourage activism,” Ms Mayman said.

“The world did not end and there have been few, if any, disputes.”

However, she said there would be tensions between unions on things such as who had right of coverage on new industries.

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