Respect. It’s where all progress must come from, workers said within the walls of parliament house this week.
Workers from around the country have been sharing their experiences with government MPs and senators in Canberra.
They spoke about workers rights and sensible improvements to workplace laws so we can get wages moving for millions of workers.
United Workers Union member Grace Gbala has struggled to pay the bills because her pay hasn’t kept up. Her low wages as an aged care worker means she works two jobs to make ends meet.
“Residents deserve proper care and more time. In order for us to give that proper care, we need proper pay,” Gbala said.
With a lack of decent wages, the aged care sector has struggled to attract workers. The industry is chronically understaffed and underfunded with workers stretching themselves above and beyond to look after residents.
“Just respect. That’s all we need,” she said.
Union members reach the halls of power
Independent Education Union member Janene Rox emphasised the importance of making sure workers were all on “the same playing field” when it came to pay and working conditions.
As an early childhood teacher at a Cronulla preschool, Rox was excited to be in parliament house to make share the experiences of her colleagues as well as her own.
“I’m really proud to be here and really determined to try and share not just my voice but the voice for all those out there that aren’t here today,” she said.
“This building makes you feel like you’re somewhere where you’re going to be heard.”
There is always strength in union
Rox explained that preschools, especially community ones like hers, were a “different” sector where it wasn’t always easy to have a “big voice”.
“The union gives me the support I need. It gives me the assurance,” she said.
For Gbala, her decision to join the union was about speaking and standing up for people.
“I want to be the voice for others that feel like they don’t have someone that listens to them,” she said.
“I want to be a leader for my community as well as people who are around my age group. I want to let them know, ‘You know what? Joining the union is really good. We need people like you’,” Gbala said.
“This is the time to be in the union. To fight for rights and just be the light… if no one can speak, you can do it,” Gbala said.