ASMP: Class of May

ASMP1

Twice a year, the Australian Services Union host ASU women to participate in the VTHC's Anna Stewart Memorial Program.

The program is an affirmative action program to facilitate increasing women’s understanding and involvement in unions, and is a memorial in honour of Anna Stewart, a prodigious union activist who achieved remarkable advances for women at a time when women’s activism in unions was more difficult.

After Anna’s tragically premature death at the age of 35, her unionist friends determined that the development of a program for women unionists was an appropriate way to honour her memory.

In May, three ASU women - Kath Tuari (Moorbool Shire Council), June Cozens (Brimbank City Council) and Megan Adams (South East water) - were the latest to participate in the ASMP, and we asked them about their experiences during their stay.

June Cozens (Brimbank City Council)

1.  What are some of the positive experiences you’ve taken out of being part of the Anna Stewart Memorial Program?
For me, the Anna Stewart Memorial Program was a whole series of positive experiences from start to finish. In particular, I really enjoyed getting to know ASU Women's Officer Jane Karslake better and meeting all the other Annas and learning a bit about the different sectors they work in. For example, nursing, midwifery, teaching, a Victorian water authority, Jetstar, the National Australia Bank, public transport, Adult Multicultural Educational Services (AMES), and so on.

Union Aid Abroad APHEDA also arranged for one of the Annas to travel from Cambodia to participate in the program and one of the many interesting things that she described to us was how there is a seriously high level of gender inequality in Cambodia, particularly in the workforce.


2.  Were there some things that you saw while in the office that made you more aware of how things are done behind the scenes or perhaps how an Organiser goes about their day-to-day roles?
Going to the Fair Work Commission and other meetings with ASU organisers highlighted the immense amount of pressure organisers are under as they are required to be constantly vigilant during these meetings. They need to continually analyse and assess what is being said at conferences and meetings and I was very impressed with how all the organisers I attended meetings with contributed to the meetings in such intelligent, informed and worthwhile ways. An added pressure is the physical requirement of having to travel across Melbourne, and so on. (I attended a meeting with an organiser in Doncaster and she had to travel to Frankston for another meeting later that day).

3.  What are some of things you think could be done to further enhance the influence of women within unions?
One of the things I thought was really good about the group of 15 Annas I did the program with was that there were quite a few women in their 20s and early 30s. When I attended a Feminism in the Pub session there were also a lot of young women there listening to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus speak. This made me feel really hopeful about the future of the union movement and I think that unions should support and encourage young women as much as possible to ensure that they continue to be actively involved with unions.

Kath Tuari (Moorbool Shire Council)

1.    What are some of the positive experiences you’ve taken out of being part of the Anna Stewart Memorial Project?
The Gender Violence Action - the coordinated activities to promote a cause was a key highlight of activities at Trades Hall. It encouraged participants to network effectively and work together to achieve desired outcomes.  A positive outcome was empowerment of the women involved given the palpable impact of the protest on Worksafe staff and other workers.  

In addition, there was a real ‘buzz’ experienced by being onsite for the campaign protest at Worksafe.  It was a real hands-on experience that gave the Annas a deeper insight and understanding into the works of Trades Hall, and confidence to be more actively involved in these type of initiatives.

Presenters - Spot on and relevant to the current issues for women. Great insights. Thanks to all at Trades Hall who were involved and assisted with putting the program together.

Workplace visits -  There was a great opportunity to learn from worksite visits and other organisers.  I especially appreciated the time, openness and helpful sharing of information and skills from participating organisers. Emma Bagg was tenacious, genuine and had a refreshing approach, and was good at a picket line BBQ! Billy King was tough, to the point and is one hell of a negotiator. Dave Warmsley is genuine, an all-rounder and a well-appreciated organiser, while Martin McDonald gave a great introduction to Maribyrnong Council and HACC issues. He was friendly, approachable and highly respected.

ASU Women's officer Jane Karslake was great at organising the program and making alterations on a daily basis to accommodate the needs and changing schedules at a moment's notice.  Full points to her for her flexibility and commitment to women’s rights.


2.    Were there some things that you seen while in the office that made you more aware of how things are done behind the scenes or perhaps how an Organiser goes about their day-to-day roles?
The organisers work much harder than I ever imagined.  In the field we only see a limited glimpse of their responsibilities.  In the office it was apparent that there is a huge volume of work to be undertaken on a daily basis (travel, office, negotiating, etc).  While organisers were out on the road talking issues and EBAs, the support staff in the office were well in tune with the needs of the organisation to keep things working smoothly, especially the woman who helped us with the photocopier in amongst her other list of things to do!
 

3.    What are some of things you think could be done to further enhance the influence of women within unions?

  • Recruit younger women
  • Encourage greater involvement in key initiatives and/or positions within the unions
  • Target campaigns on topics that women have identified as priorities
  • Identify potential campaign champions (new and existing – plenty of potential)
  • Promote the achievements of existing women in unions and to wider workplace audiences
  • Continue mentoring programs
  • ‘Inspirational Series’: Promote the history of women in unions to members and upcoming leaders

 

Megan Adams (South West Water)

 

What are some of the positive experiences you’ve taken out of being part of the Anna Stewart Memorial Project?
It was great interacting with like-minded people and hearing that we all tackle similar obstacles in the workplace around sexism and discrimination. It was also great hearing about how different industries operate and the challenges their unions face. We also learnt about the history of women in the union movement and the discrimination we had to tackle in the past at Trades Hall. It was great working with the We Are Union Women group and the other Annas to put together the Gendered Violence stunt out the front of Worksafe. This was the first time I had been part of a team organising a campaign. I also loved my time with ASU. I was able to see how an EBA negotiation meeting took place, as this is something I hadn't experienced and got to sit in on a conciliation hearing at the Fair Work Commission. It was also interesting seeing how things work in local government and SACS.

Were there some things that you saw while in the office that made you more aware of how things are done behind the scenes or how perhaps an Organiser goes about their day to day roles?
I don’t think I really understood how much our organisers actually did outside of our meetings. The long hours involved in driving around from meeting to meeting and then having to do all the paperwork once they get back to the office or at home. The continuous phone calls and emails that also come through during the day adding to the workloads. I was really surprised by the long hours the organisers worked.

What are some of things you think could be done to further enhance the influence of women within unions?
I think one of the big hurdles women face within unions is breaking down the stereotype that most unionist are blue collar male workers. It would help to see a greater presence of women in the union and more campaigns around women’s issues (e.g. Flexible working conditions for carers, equal pay, superannuation continuance during parental leave and recruiting more female delegates within workplaces).

I loved every minute I had while on the ASMP and I was so sad when it had finished. I think this is a great project and recommend it to all women delegates.
I would love to continue my involvement in the union by attending meetings for the ASU Women Committee and taking part in any training available at Trades Hall and the ASU around women’s issues in the workplace.

 

PHOTO: (L-R) ASU Women's Officer Jane Karslake pictured with Megan Adams, Kath Tuari and June Cozens.

 

 

 

 


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