April 14, 2021
National Convention is our union’s most democratic forum, bringing together hundreds of delegates from mines, power stations, ports and coal terminals around the country to set our direction every four years.
Things were very different this year. For the first time, due to COVID, we met in state-based hubs, relying on technology to bring over three hundred rank and file representatives together from locations in Perth, the Hunter Valley and Central Queensland.
We were disappointed at not all being together. But the technology went to plan and we were able to have genuine national discussions and make important, collective decisions.
The first agenda item was the question of whether to apply for a member ballot to leave the CFMMEU and become an independent Mining and Energy Union.
I was very pleased that after hearing the reports and asking questions, delegates voted unanimously to support the member ballot.
It was a historic decision in the democratic tradition of our union and delegates did not shy away from it. As we move through the process ahead it is reassuring to know that there is unity and commitment across all our Districts.
But there were many other highlights over the three days.
We heard reports from all Districts on membership, current challenges and industrial disputes. It was encouraging to hear about all the work happening at the District level to grow our union, represent individual members while also fighting to maintain and raise standards in our industries.
We heard from our Unite organisers around the country about their work, which includes the hard yards of engaging and educating non-members about the value of the union and supporting their journey towards joining.
Legal Director Alex Bukarica reported on the important work of our legal and industrial team including recovering $9.9 million in backpay and entitlements for members since our last Convention, in addition to funds recovered by Districts.
We heard from all of our industry check inspectors on the latest pressing safety concerns from mine dust management to traffic management in open cut mines, the deadly risks of arc flash events and gas management in underground mines.
We had an in-depth report on the state of our industries by Research Director Peter Colley and a discussion about union policies to support members’ jobs.
Our Cessnock hub dinner was addressed by Federal ALP leader Anthony Albanese, who outlined Labor’s commitment to ending the ‘permanent casual’ rort in mining and legislating ‘same job same pay’ for labour hire workers. Senator Murray Watt addressed the Mackay dinner where he acknowledged special guest Paul Skene, our member who was the claimant in the landmark WorkPac v Skene Federal Court decision.
Now that the Morrison Government has done its best to overturn our big wins for casual miners, we will be relying on a future Labor Government to restore rights for casuals.
Importantly, our raffle raised $19,000 for Mates in Mining, a program close to all our hearts.
And for me, it was a highlight to see delegates proudly wear their yellow convention shirts, with the fantastic Indigenous design by our member Chris Dodd from our Anvil Hill Lodge.
Many thanks to delegates around the country for making this most unusual Convention a success.
We have many challenges between now and our next Convention in four years. But with a bold roadmap endorsed by our workplace leaders I’m confident we are heading in the right direction.