“My thing is retiring with dignity. It terrifies me. I grew up in an era where the government was supposed to look after you, but now they say that’s not the case. I am 50 years old and I have very little super. I worry that I’ll never retire.”
“I worry about the future of my kids and the chance they have to get a good job.”
“Property prices are impossible. There’s a lack of government support for ordinary families to afford their own home.”
They were three voices among many. And each spoke for many more just like them. The cost of housing and the future of education and health care; and the jobs of the future and the conditions that will apply to them are central to the concerns of our members.
The United Voice Delegates and Leaders Convention this year was part of shaping the next step in our Real Voices campaign as well as learning from the stories of leaders like those pictured above: paramedic Olga Bartasek, cleaner Koustop Dhakal, laundry worker Albert Alborida, table games dealer Leeanne Ponga, early childhood educator Claire Penno and security officer Anthony Ellis.
Our Real Voices campaign is about building a vision of what a better life looks like for United Voice members and our families, and fighting for it.
It’s about confronting how government makes decisions about us, that affect us, all while we’re not in the room, let alone having a seat at the table where it all happens.
This year the real voices of the convention, held at the MCG, spoke loudly and clearly about the worries of impending retirement and the threat of a government that wants people to work until they are 70 and with only access to a reduced pension. Members spoke of their wish to retire with dignity, but that is not the future people see as in reach for themselves.
Members also worry about the Australia that might await their children: will the jobs be as secure, as rewarding, as safe as those of the past. Clearly issues about the quality of work and job security are unsettled.
"Right now, decisions are being made for us, without us. This government has a vision for us and our country where we work longer for less, where you can only visit a doctor if you can pay,” said Jess Walsh, pictured left, United Voice’s Victorian Secretary in her address to Convention.
“United Voice members helped put these people in power: they need to be accountable to us.”
"We know that when we unite for change, we win. And we can change what our political leaders are deciding for us right now.”
"And if they won't listen and won't change, then we can choose new leaders who will.”
Asked what would be her message to a politician, Julie, an early childhood educator did not hesitate: “Work for a week in our shoes. Live on our pay. Educate our children on our pay…I don’t think they have a clue.”
Our Charter began in the findings of the Real Voices survey of 26,000 United Voice members in 2013. It has now been endorsed by our union’s National Council and it will be launched soon. It is our roadmap to a better future for everyone in Australia. It is the future we deserve, for ourselves and our families.
After hearing from state Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews about what a Labor Government would mean for paramedics and other United Voice members, more than 200 delegates came together in workshops to discuss how to fight for a fairer and more equal Australia.
Others, like Albert Alborida (pictured below), spoke inspiringly of their personal journey as individuals who stepped up to bring change at work. Albert has worked with Ensign Spotless for 15 years, the last nine years serving as a United Voice delegate.
He did not plan to become a leader. It came about because he saw a need.
“No one else would do it and I stood up and I said I think we need someone to fight for all the people on my site,” Albert recalled about his decision to become a union delegate.
“Through negotiations I have built up my confidence and our site has become stronger, we are pretty much 100% union…and our site has become the highest paid laundry in Victoria.
“In the past we have won because our members have stood up. The main reason is we are pretty much one voice and we are united and through that we have done what we needed to do.”
Albert’s story was one of the difference you can make when are united and you have a seat at the table where decisions are made.
With leadership like Albert’s and that of so many others leaders at Convention we are in a great place to fight for our vision a better, fairer Australia, when we launch our Real Voice Charter in early 2015.