Organised Labour and the Future of Industrial Action - Australian Fabians

Organised Labour and the Future of Industrial Action

Wednesday - 26 August, 2020 - 07:30 PM

Online Only - A Zoom link will be forwarded on RSVP - Victoria, Australia

This is the first event in Australian Fabians, Victorian Branch, Spring Series: The Future of Worker Power.

In this series we ask what strategies can reverse the decline in worker power that we have seen over recent decades. Across three events, we will look at the future of Industrial Action, Industrial Strategy and Industrial Democracy.

Over the last forty years or so, the share of national income going to labour in Australia has fallen by around 15%, considerably more than the OECD average. The percentage of workers that belong to trade unions has fallen from about a half to a little over a tenth. The percentage of those in casual and insecure work has approximately doubled. The right to strike in Australia has almost disappeared, and the arbitration and conciliation system that once protected workers’ pay and conditions has been eclipsed by a faltering system of enterprise bargaining.

What strategies are going to reverse this decline, giving Australian workers access to good, secure jobs, with decent pay and conditions, and a fair share of the fruits of their labour?



Carina Garland is an Assistant Secretary at the Victorian Trades Hall Council. She is an outstanding campaigner for Australian workers, with many appearances in the media. Recently she has been getting stuck in on the issues of wage theft, migrant workers and the injustices of job-seeker. She has previously been a Communications Officer at the NUW, an electorate officer and a Lecturer at Sydney University.

Anthony Forsyth specialises in collective bargaining, the regulation of trade unions, labour hire and worker exploitation. He has written extensively on the future of unions. His forthcoming book will explore how unions and collective worker representation are responding to neoliberalism, economic restructuring and the ‘fissuring’ of work. He is a Professor in the Graduate School of Business and Law at RMIT, and founder of the Labour Law Down Under Blog.


Our speakers will discuss the winning strategies for organised Labour today.

  • How do we deal with an environment of high unemployment, the casualisation of work, and historically low Trade Union participation?
  • What are the prospects of obtaining a regulatory environment that is more favourable for organised labour and what might such an environment look like?
  • Is industrial action still the key to worker power? What are the prospects for that? Or are other tactics – political and social – now more important?
  • What are effective tactics for organising and representing workers in the gig economy? Do we need to accept the casualisation of so much of our employment, and look at new structures to ensure that casual workers have the bargaining power to get a fair deal?


This is an Online Only event - a link to join the Zoom event will be forwarded via email upon RSVP and prior to the event.


All are welcome to stay for our 'online pub' after the event:

In our time of lock down, this is an effort to maintain the social aspect of our face to face events, which are usually followed by dinner and drinks at a local pub. So remember to come prepared with your own BYO drink and nibbles for the post-event discussion. We encourage all members to switch on video at the event to improve sociability.


Future Events in the Series:

The Future of Industrial Policy: Wednesday, 23rd September 7:30 pm.

The Future of Industrial Democracy: Wednesday, 28th October. 7:30 pm.

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