Unions have existed and been active in a range of industries throughout the Northern Territory since the 1900s. When union delegates gathered in the North Australian Workers Union office to establish the Northern Territory Trades and Labor Council during the 1950s they had a clear vision - to lift the living standards and quality of working life of working people.
Their strategy to achieve this was also clear – to build union organisation in the workforce on a local basis, to align with the ACTU strategy to build union capability and capacity on a national basis.
More than 60 years on, Unions NT, its affiliated union members can celebrate a proud record of achievement on behalf of working Northern Territorians and the community.
The industrial gains are many:
decades of wage increases through the award system and campaigns in the workplace;
equality legislation for women;
improvements in working hours;
entitlements to paid holidays and better employment conditions;
anti discrimination legislation;
workplace health and safety and workers' compensation legislation;
promotion of human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples and working women;
the establishment of an industry based superannuation system.
Unions NT (alongside the ACTU and affiliated unions) has played a role in all of these achievements and has contributed to fairness and justice in the community as a whole.
The advances listed above have all contributed to Australia’s post-war development, immigration program, social security system, Medicare and education - to name just a few areas of public policy.
Unions NT has also represented Australian unionism in the international arena, opposing discrimination and oppression and supporting human rights in such areas as Europe, South Africa, Asia and the United States.
The trade unions aid agency, APHEDA – Union Aid Abroad, contributes to humanitarian projects in many countries and has had previously a working group based in Darwin.
The enduring commitment of working Territorians to a fairer society is reflected in the continuing fight to protect the fundamental principles of unionism.
The right to organise and the right to collectively bargain sit at the heart of the 21st century struggle for a just Australia, just as it was throughout the previous century.
We can all best keep the faith with those who have worked and sacrificed to build the trade union movement in our country over the past decades and the Northern Territory union movement by keeping the union cause bright and vibrant into the future.
History is important as it can teach us all how to acheive positive change and reminds some in our society about the consequences of undervaluing ordinary working people.