Workers’ rights have been earned, not granted. A little over a century ago, the Australian Labor Party was born out of the hardship of the working class. When I use the word ‘workers’ in this sense, I refer to those of us who work for someone else in return for a wage. And this is not to imply that those who pay the wages do not work, of course they do. Many of you out there in the workforce have very good wages and conditions now. You believe you don’t need the Labor Party or the Union movement any more for protection. You tend to begrudge having to pay union dues, even though those dues are tax deductable, but it would be better to look on it as a form of industrial insurance.
These good wages and conditions are a result of union activity in the past, good unions are still battling away on your behalf in the Industrial Courts. Wages and conditions in Australia were not as good as they are now in the past. Ask any working man or woman over the age of 70 or so what it was like when they began their working life. There is a great fear among older people that the young workers will learn too late, the value of unions – good conditions and wages had to be fought for and won the hard way in our working days. The younger workers have never had to battle; they regard these wages and conditions as a right, and they seemingly do not realize how easy ‘these rights’ can be taken away, please don’t let the employers turn back the clock to the bad old days.
Original letter was written by Rob Lawrence of Hughenden.