Matthew’s diary – Week 5: Electrical Trades Union and major projects

Matthew spent the majority of his fifth week in Brisbane learning more about Australia’s Electrical Trades Union (ETU).

Spending time with Luke, a Union Organiser and former delegate, Matthew was introduced to Chris Lynch, the Assistant Secretary, as well as the staff at the ETU. Matthew explained: “An ETU delegate is responsible for assisting colleagues in any matter that’d be considered a ‘Union matter’, be that work or personal issues, and are a Union rep on site. They don’t get paid for the responsibility, and do the work to improve the conditions of their fellow workers and increase union representation on site.”

Matthew visited a few job sites and spent some time talking with delegates. He also met Hayden, a licensed electrician and ETU delegate who helps run the ‘ETU Youth’ arm of the union. Matthew said: “We spoke at length about his time in the industry and how he finds being a delegate. He took us round the Aus-Care job, up to the top deck where the rebar was being installed for the next concrete pour. The site was a mix of live-in care homes as well as commercial properties on the ground floor.”

On the Queens Wharf job site, a huge multi-billion casino, hotel, residential and shopping area being built in the heard of Brisbane on the river, Matthew met up with the Union delegates on the job (there are five delegates across five electrical companies). The delegates operate collaboratively, aiming to discuss and promote worker issues they may encounter on the job, ensuring good production levels for the builder while keeping their fellow workers happy. Matthew explained: “After meeting delegates, I was taken on a tour of the job site. It’s a huge project, with the aim of the casino opening within the next year and a half.”

Later in the week, Matthew spent time helping the preparations for the May Day celebrations. May Day, Matthew explained, is described colloquially as ‘Union Christmas’, as the unions work together to create a large event for Union members and their families. He said: “It’s a day of cross-union solidarity where people come to celebrate the union movement over beers and a BBQ. The day starts with a breakfast, a march through the centre of Brisbane, finishing at the showgrounds where there are amusement rides, drinks, barbecues and a host of other entertainment options.”

Reflecting on his week with the Union, Matthew commented: “I want to thank the ETU staff for their inclusiveness and for showing me around this week. The ETU explained they strongly believe in the power of solidarity with fellow workers and want to build relationships with whoever shows an interest in what they do.”