Australia was first noted by the Dutch in 1606 and then much later the British claimed the Eastern half. The European discovery of New South Wales was made by Captain James Cook during his voyage along the east coast of Australia in 1770. The first British settlement was made by Captain Arthur Phillip. Captain Phillip assumed the role of governor upon his arrival in 1788 until 1792. During his time as governor, New South Wales was nothing more than a penal colony. After Captain Phillip was William Bligh who was over-thrown and then in 1809 Lachlan Macquarie, was sent from Britain to reform the settlement. While he was in office he began a legacy that is still evident today. Macquarie hired a planner to design the layout of Sydney, sent explorers to discover the rest of the continent, commissioned the construction of many roads, churches and public buildings. As Britain??™s reach expanded beyond New South Wales, the Australia we know today began to form.
Today, Australia is a very prosperous, well, developed country. In the world economy ratings, Australia is the thirteenth largest economy. When it comes to International comparisons of performance such as human development, quality of life, health care, etc; Australia is far from trailing behind. When it comes to organized labor, once again they are, once again, at the top of the list.
Labor unions in Australia have a rather relatively long history, which would date to the nineteenth century. During the nineteenth century, however, they were still at the formative stage. They were just unknown organizations of workers facing common problems wishing to confront a common employer. By then, these organizations had loose structures and no solid membership considering the political and economic establishments were against their existence.
The most notable effort to bring together workers across the various professions was evidenced in 1927, in the formation of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, ACTU. This was an effort to bring together a various workers union under one big umbrella in line with the trend in most European countries and in the United States. Before then, trade unions still existed, agitating for workers rights in the specific industries. At the moment, the Australian Council of Trade Unions remains the single largest body that presses for workers welfare bringing together close to over 40 workers unions. Labor unions in Australia have been playing a very crucial role in representing the workers rights. A labor union is simply an organization that brings together a cross-section of workers with an intention of collective bargaining for the interest of the workers. The single most important duty of labor unions across the world is to press for the workers rights, negotiate with the employers on behalf of the workers. The trade unions in Australia, in addition to collective bargaining with the employers, lobby for some benefits from the government, benefits that may extend to taxation alongside many others.
There are a number of labor unions in Australia, varying in size and in membership. Just to mention a few, there is the Australian Services Union. It brings together workers that provide services in the transportation, community and public sector. Two unions, The Community and Public Sector Union, proudly boast of having memberships in every part of Australia. This union represents members from various industries that mostly work in the public and private sector ranging from telecommunication, science, and information technology alongside others. The Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers of Australia, as the name suggests, it is a labor union that represents and fights for the rights of professionals drawn from the likes of architects, engineers, managers as well as other professionals from various fields. Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association is a union that boasts of membership to the tune of two hundred thousand members. It represents workers that are allied to retail outlets in the various fields. The Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union draw its membership from the tourism and hotels industry. Australian Manufacturing Workers Union brings together workers that rely on the manufacturing industry for their livelihood. The unions mentioned above represent only a few of the labor unions in Australia, but they are among the largest.
Australia, much like the United States, has a long history with Unions. As I read both histories they are amazingly parallel. Both countries fought for and won an eight hour workday. Australia??™s history does dare earlier than our own, so I am inclined to think that perhaps many of our ideas and movements may have been inspired by what was taking place in other countries, including Australia. From 1908 ??“ 1915, Andrew Fisher was Prime Minister and during his rein a total of 113 Acts were passed. These Acts allowed for many reforms, such as establishing old-age and disability pensions, a maternity allowance and workers compensation. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that our history seems to copy that of another or perhaps since we all in some form or fashion have had the pleasure of being ruled by the British, we kept the best ideas they had to offer.
Groups to protect the rights of workers existed since the medieval times. In the medieval times, however, the groups were called guilds. Guilds existed for the same reason unions exist; to protect and enhance their members??™ livelihoods. Although it is disputed, Unions are thought of by many as the successors of the guilds. Unions have grown and changed around the world over the 300 years, each influenced by politics and business. Their activities and histories may vary, but the majority of them include providing provision of benefits to members, Collective bargaining, industrial action and political activity. We may not see or pay attention to unions the way we once did, but they are there ever vigilant and working for the benefits of workers in Australia, the United States and around the world.
ACTU. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2010, from Australian Council of Trade Unions: http://actu.com.au/AboutACTU/HistoryoftheACTU/default.aspx
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Fletcher, B. (1967). Phillip, Arthur (1738 – 1814). In A. N. University, Australian Dictionary of Biography (pp. 326-333). Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishing.
McLachlan, N. (1967). quarie, Lachlan (1762 – 1824)Mac. In A. n. University, Australian Dictionary of Biography (pp. 187 – 195). Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishing.