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United magazine Winter 2015: USU Members take United Action

The USU's Winter 2015 edition of United has been sent to members. Check it out here.

USU General Secretary Graeme Kelly

It is hard to believe we are already moving into Spring - I think most members would agree that 2015 is moving with a fast pace with a lot going on, however the USU is not only keeping up but is ahead of the game.

We have been active in our campaign to stop any forced mergers of councils and have made a number of submissions to the Upper House Inquiry currently taking place. Members can keep up to date with progress on our website at www.usu.org.au/fit-for-the-future.

We are already seeing signs that some councils will use this opportunity to attack workers’ wages and conditions and the Local Government (State) Award. Liverpool Council (page 6) and Gosford Council (page 20) are two examples of this.

Earlier this year, Liverpool City Council became the first NSW local council to outsource management of their white collar employees, and as we head to print they appear to be pushing that same model on other staff, with the jobs of 12 cleaners on the chopping block.

However we are also seeing some strong solidarity between workers and council management with Waverley and Randwick Councils both signing up to give workers an extra 2 years job protections in the face of any council mergers or amalgamation. (page 12) Lake Macquarie Council (page 23) has also signed a collaborative EA.

The USU does not support any merger or amalgamation where the community and the workforce oppose it. We also do not believe that bigger is better and there is a lot of support for that from many councils and the community who are fighting the NSW government’s push for amalgamations.

In March the Baird government was re-elected and the sale of the energy infrastructure has become a reality despite strong opposition in the Upper House. Through extensive lobbying we were able to secure job protections for members however we know we will have to fight every step of the way with the energy companies commencing an aggressive campaign of redundancies (page 9) and even going so far as spying on workers (page 8).

If you need confirmation about how important our energy and local government members are to the community see our story on pages 18-19. I join the community in thanking them for their hard work during the severe storms in April.

The union is also leading the way on many fronts for our members in the clerical and admin sector with many EAs under way (pages 14-15) and our airlines members have shown solidarity at Jetstar forcing a turnaround from the company on Nil48 (page 21).

I would also like to congratulate your new leadership team and executive, elected unopposed at the union elections held earlier this year. I welcome new members of the executive who I know will be working to ensure USU members are well represented.


Steve Birney elected as national ASU President

Steve Birney has been elected as the National ASU President, a remarkable achievement for a remarkable man with three decades of rank and file representation. (page 3)

Steve Birney has represented the workers of Tweed Shire Council since the early 1990’s, being elected to the Northern Branch committee of management of the Municipal Employees’ Union in 1994 as the Branch Secretary, a position he still holds today.

Steve was elected as the Northern Branch Executive member in 1994, a position he held until 1999 when he was elected as the President of the Municipal Employees’ Union as well as National ASU Executive Alternative in 1999, a position he held until elected as the National Executive member in 2006.

In 2003 Steve was elected as the inaugural President of the United Services Union following the amalgamation with the Federated Clerks Union. Steve remains the current President of the USU elected unopposed in April 2015.

In July 2015 Steve Birney was elected unopposed as the President of our national union, the Australian Services Union, with over 130,000 members across Australia.

Steve boasts a very proud record attending all but one meeting since 1994 in all portfolios, an impressive record for an equally impressive man. I am proud to say that members of the United Services Union and Australian Services Union are led by one of the “most dedicated and committed Honorary Trade Union leaders of modern times”.

Steve has been strongly supported by his family over these three decades with his wife Paula and their three daughters Lauren, Claire and Jenna sharing him with the wider trade union movement and his objective of “making a better life for working people”.

Steve’s leadership is an inspiration to all who have had the privilege to work alongside him this past three decades, the Union movement is truly indebted to this wonderful leader.


Graeme Kelly
USU General Secretary