The rules that made Australia fair are broken. They are crumbling under the weight of bad government policies that hurt Australian workers and benefit the rich and powerful.
In 2017, the top 1% own more wealth than the bottom 70% of Australians combined.
And it’s not just growing income inequality. Our conditions at work are being dismantled. Our right to job security, industrial action, arbitration and fair enterprise bargaining are being stripped away.
Some rules have never been fair: the gender pay gap, exploitation of foreign workers and government employment programs that discriminate against Indigenous Australians.
This inequality isn’t just the result of a few rogue employers and corporations; systemic abuses of power and workers are becoming the norm.
But governments and corporations are spinning a different story:
• that the casualisation of the workforce offers ‘more opportunity’, not more uncertainty
• that double digit youth unemployment is due to a lazy and entitled generation, not insecure work, and
• that tax cuts for big business and ‘trickle down economics’ lead to more equality, not less.
It sounds true. It just isn’t.
And the truth is no different for teachers and support staff.
Fifty per cent of teachers leave before their first five years. Unnecessary workloads and lack of autonomy are burning out the best teaching minds. Along with standardised testing, this is the result of interference by big corporations like Pearson, which enjoy government complicity and support.
This year Catholic employers have fought tooth and nail to deny their staff the right to arbitration, and early childhood teachers, predominately women, continue the struggle for pay equity with male professionals in similar jobs.
This is why we need to join in ACTU’s campaign to Change the Rules. We need to expose the overwhelming evidence of widening inequality. We need to tell our stories.
It’s no secret that union membership is declining in most sectors. But unions are our best check and balance to these growing powers. The link between wage growth and union membership levels is undeniable. With more support unions can swing the pendulum the other way, giving back our rights at work.