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Largest survey of Australian workers to contribute to future workplace campaigns

Posted 4 August 2011 by Michael Evans (NTEU National Office)

More than 41,000 Australian workers from all industries will help shape future workplace campaigns thanks to their contribution to the biggest ever national survey of workers, conducted by unions during May to July.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the response to the Working Australia Census 2011 had been overwhelming, with workers clearly wanting a say in their future.

“An early analysis of Census data has confirmed what unions believed about the cost of living placing increasing stress on workers and their families, while the work-life balance has become more and more difficult to manage,” Ms Kearney said.

“Australians are working longer and harder but life is not getting easier.

“The ACTU conducted this survey because we want to ensure workers have a voice.

“The results of the Census will help shape our future campaigns and ensure that we are working to give Australians the better life they want and deserve.

“The Census results will be used to inform future ACTU policy and campaigns as well as provide insights into the working lives of working Australians and the issues that are important to them.

“We want to thank everyone who took the time to fill in the Census, because these are the people the ACTU represents and it is so important that their views are reflected in all of our campaigns.”

The ACTU is now analysing the data from the Working Australia Census, which was open for eight weeks until 1 July. Headline results will be released in coming weeks.

Ms Kearney said respondents came from every state and territory in Australia and were aged from 15 to over 65.

An early analysis of 1000 responses found the majority of Australians want greater job security and are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living, while improvements to technology have resulted in them performing more unpaid work outside of hours.

Ms Kearney said workers had a right to share in the benefits of a strong economy which was being reaped by employers at their expense.

“All workers deserve a share of our economy and must at least be able to afford to pay for the basics,” Ms Kearney said.

“They also deserve job security and unions believe this is a basic right, yet official data shows that 40% of workers are on casual and contract employment.

“Many of these workers don’t know what they will be earning from week to week and they want secure employment that meets the rising cost of their basic needs.

“Australian businesses are recording record profits, so it is simply not fair that so many people are in casual and contract work – many of whom want the security of permanent work.

“This is why job security will be a major campaign focus for the ACTU in the next few years. We are committed to work hard to support Australian workers so that they can provide a better future for them and their families.”

Ms Kearney said she was also pleased to announce the three winners of the ACTU’s Census competition, who will each receive $1000 linked to an ME Bank account just for completing the Census.

The winners of the Census competition are Perth flight attendant Cindy Aitkenhead, Queensland nurse Matthew Dendle and Victorian library technician Lee Pattinson.

Ms Aitkenhead, a member of the Flight Attendants Association of Australia, has worked for Qantas for the past 15 years and said the increased competition among airlines had led to greater pressures on staff.

“In the end I’m in the union out of fear of what Qantas would do if there were no unions in air travel, Ms Aitkenhead said.

“They are the best way we’ve got of standing up for safety and conditions and having a say if something happens, or our working conditions are unsafe.”

Mr Dendle, who works as a nurse at a 14-bed hospital in Mungindai, on the QLD side of the border with NSW, is completing qualifications in psychiatric nursing and said his biggest workplace concern was the poor rate of pay nurses received for the amount of work they did.

He also pointed to the fact nurses had to spend their own money to keep their qualifications current as a major concern. Mr Dendle plans to use his $1000 prize towards textbooks for his studies.

“I’ve had great experiences with the union, and it’s good to know they are there when you need them,” he said.

Ms Pattinson, a library technician at Neerim District Secondary College in Victoria’s West Gippsland said he had been a long-time member of the Australian Education Union, which she said had improved the conditions of education support workers like her.

“It’s about the recognition of our role as much as the money, acknowledging that we’re part of the team,” Ms Pattinson said.

She said most people did not appreciate the work that education workers do outside of school hours, or the growing amount of paperwork that they are required to do.

“I think it’s a real problem, there are teachers leaving the profession because they are spending too much time on it and not enough on teaching,” Ms Pattinson said.

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