Over a century ago the state of Victoria was one of the first regions in the world to legislate wages and create arbitration boards and councils to resolve labour conflicts before the recourse to strikes. These were the initial steps towards minimum wages.
As an eventual consequence of this regulation made here in Australia and similarly in New Zealand, more than 130 countries across the world legislated the minimum wage to safeguard the financial wellbeing of low paid workers today.
I was reminded of this fact by Executive Director of Oxfam International Winnie Byanyima, a leader in women’s rights, democratic governance and peace building, who spoke at Progress 2017 in Melbourne last month.
As Winnie stated, this essential win for workers’ rights that we all appreciate today did not just occur, rather it was the perseverance of people on the front line making change happen.
Just last month the Fair Work Commission raised Australia’s minimum weekly wage by 3.3%. While the increase equates to only $22.20 extra per week for low paid workers, many employers were unhappy about the raise that was only slightly above inflation.
However the Fair Work Commission ruled that due to low inflation, low employment, high productivity and strong company profits, the Australian economy could well absorb an increase for low paid workers.
While this increase is nominal, and not what unions were seeking, we can at least thank our predecessors whose activism led to the instigation of the basic wage, which is now protected through the Fair Work Act (see the Industrial column this month for more on this topic).
Just as the activists of 1896, we too must continue to fight and protect our rights, those of our communities and of our environment. Never has this been more important than today where our healthcare and aged care systems seem constantly under attack.
That’s why as individuals and as a collective we cannot sit back as idle bystanders to the injustices of our time or allow the wins made by our predecessors to be diminished.
We must stand up against the detrimental changes to Medicare as well as the erosion of safe staffing levels in our aged care facilities.
Equally, we must speak out and fight against the recent changes to penalty rates which currently affect retail, fast food, hospitality and pharmacy workers (read about this in the ANMJ news section).
The worrying state of our environment and our leaders’ lack of action to save our planet is also cause for concern. Last month American president Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, declaring that it was too costly to US industries to participate in. But according to reports from scientists, the ramifications of their withdrawal from its pledge could mean the earth will reach more dangerous levels of warming sooner as America contributes so much to rising temperatures.
This month’s feature delves into this issue. It also discusses how nurses, midwives and healthcare facilities are paving the way in making environmentally friendly changes within their amenities which are contributing positively to the preservation of our planet.
This is just one of the ways nurses and midwives are standing up for what is right and actively leading by example to make significant change.
And just like our predecessors, who fought for legislated wages, it is possible that through our activism to fight for what is right we too can change the world.
To read more articles from ANMJ, view the full journal online at https://issuu.com/australiannursingfederation/docs/anmj_july_2017_issuu