All Women unionists are eligible to participate in the Project. Your union will have all relevant details.
To enrol, contact your union or UnionsWA. In most cases, unions can negotiate with the employer for leave and make whatever arrangements are necessary to ensure participants are paid.
Anna Stewart worked passionately and tirelessly to involve women directly in deciding on principles and priorities to put before unions and government in order to achieve real quality of status and opportunity for women. Her efforts achieved more in less than a decade working in the union movements than most of us will in a lifetime. Anna's work encapsulated her remarkable vision of women's lives - as they were - as she hoped they would be. Her commitment was expressed through all possible channels but particularly through the political and industrial wings of the labour movement.
Anna Stewart worked passionately and tirelessly to involve women directly in deciding on principles and priorities to put before unions and government in order to achieve real quality of status and opportunity for women.
Her efforts achieved more in less than a decade working in the union movements than most of us will in a lifetime. Anna's work encapsulated her remarkable vision of women's lives - as they were - as she hoped they would be. Her commitment was expressed through all possible channels but particularly through the political and industrial wings of the labour movement.
Anna entered the industrial arena at a time when women workers made up a third of the paid workforce but the few industries in which they were employed, were almost invariably at the unskilled and semi-skilled level. Women were poorly paid, lacked job security and job satisfaction and rarely had access to promotional opportunities. Anna developed a radical re- evaluation of the rights of female labour within the economy which led to a fundamental reappraisal of these issues throughout the labour movement.
In 1974, the Federated Furnishing Trades Society of Australasia was looking for an "Out of work journalist" to investigate and write a report on the effects of tariff charges on furniture imports. Anna, pregnant at the time, was employed by the union.
The report completed, Anna secured a full-time position as research officer with that union. She immediately set about preparing a work value case for argument before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. That too, was successful.
In the midst of preparing for this case, she spared no time in commencing negotiations with employers for the inclusion of maternity leave conditions into awards. Anna herself was very obviously pregnant with her child at the time.
For many years, the issues of equal pay, maternity leave and childcare had been ignored.
Anna's persuasiveness and commitment secured the employers' consent to maternity leave provisions becoming award conditions thereby averting the necessity for full-scale argument and justification by the union before the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. When it finally went before the Commission for the official stamp of approval, all the parties were in total agreement. An incredible achievement - the first blue-collar union to achieve maternity leave provisions for its female members.
Anna continued to articulate issues rationally and forcefully, winning respect and admiration from those for whom she worked as well as her opposition.
When her youngest child was born he accompanied Anna on the job, out into the field gathering evidence and into the Commission to finally put submissions. She accommodated the needs of her young son either by breast-feeding in the Commission or by seeking an adjournment of proceedings.
Anna set a precedent for many women who gained strength and confidence from her example of combining motherhood with a career. The Arbitration Commission, the union and employers all were sensitised directly to the needs of working mothers, particularly in relation to childcare.
Both personally and industrially Anna made demands upon the social system and forced the work environment to accommodate the rights and needs of working women and their children. Her success in having those demands met offered hope and inspiration to all women who in the quest for personal survival, usually attempt to adjust themselves to the requirements of a social system which simultaneously demands cheap, female labour whilst conferring on women, sole responsibility for childcare.
In 1975 Anna took up the position of Federal Research Officer with the Vehicle Builders Employees' Federation of Australia (VBEF). In this position she continued her role as an advocate and her efforts to improve "the lot" faced by women workers.
A visit to the United States of America in that year strengthened Anna's resolve to achieve change for women in Australia. She returned stimulated and enthusiastic about the strength and impact of the women's movement in the United States.
At the VBEF, Anna fought with an unmatched tenacity for the provision of childcare facilities in car plants, securing a consensus decision from union delegates to this effect. Anna headed a campaign by the union to drag sexual harassment into the light of day, condemning it as another facet of women's exploitation and convincing employers that the issue was an industrial one and needed to be dealt with, immediately, through industrial channels.
As a result of her initiative all sexist language then existing in the awards was removed. Whilst at the VBEF she also worked and assisted on the ACTU Maternity Leave case. The case was presented to the public, especially to women workers, so successfully that the following twelve months witnessed a remarkable increase in the female membership of the unions. Anna headed the Media Liaison Committee and ensured that her former press colleagues gave good coverage of what was being achieved.
At its Congress in 1977, the ACTU adopted the Working Women's Charter and set up the first Women's Committee of the ACTU. Anna was one of the founding members of that Committee - one of the four women chosen to be its nucleus, and remained an active force in that Committee working for the implementation of the Charter. Only a couple of weeks before her death she successfully argued the future program of the ACTU Women's Committee before the AM Executive.
In 1980, after five years with the VBEF, Anna became a Senior Federal Industrial Officer with the Municipal Officers' Association (MOA) and in 1981 was thrown head first into a dispute with the Electricity Trust of South Australia over wages. Her resolve obtained a pre-Christmas salary increase by out-manoeuvring an employer strategy which would have been to the detriment of MOA members.
At the MOA Anna initiated the establishment of Women's Committees in most State Branches. She developed a strong sexual harassment policy and laid the ground work for the development in industrial agreements and award conditions relating to sexual harassment. She also developed an affirmative action policy which the MOA adopted after her death, ensuring increased active participation by women in the union. This policy, calling for 25% of M elected representatives to be women, was passed overwhelmingly at the 1983 MOA Federal Council.
Women trade union officials themselves are susceptible to sexual harassment from employer representatives who stand to gain a tactical advantage if they can humiliate and degrade their industrial opponents. Anna was adept at dealing with such situations. Soon after her arrival at the MOA, in the course of negotiations with a group of South Australian employers she was taken to lunch at a "topless" restaurant. Anna coolly ignored their sexist pranks and retaliated by out-manoeuvring them in negotiations which resulted in large salary increases for MOA members.
Anna secured remarkable gains, particularly for working women, directly for the members for whom she worked and indirectly for all women by setting precedents in a number of areas and by her own personal example. The influence of Anna's life and work remains immeasurable. She brought hope and support to women throughout the trade union movement, providing them with the strength and confidence to continue the fight.
Robyn Parker participated in the 2007 Anna Stewart Memorial Project and kept a diary of her daily experiences and responses. "Thankyou to all the people at the CPSU/CSA who all were very friendly, supportive and provided me with a wealth of information and a display of passion for their work which is admirable. "
Tuesday September 4th
I arrive at the CPSU/CSA building and am introduced to Rikki who is my contact person and she gives me the guided tour introducing me to peole as we move around the office.
I am then briefed by Kelly Worlock (Industrial Officer) on a hearing in the WAIRC that I am to attend tomorrow and in this discussion it becomes very clear that individual interpretation is the key factor in conflict and uncertainty of outcome.
I then meet with the TAFE organiser, Sean Hansen (Organiser) and we attend a meeting with the other organisers in which their is an OHS representative from the CFMEU in attendance, to provide the organisers with strategic advice on a range or matters pertaining to OHS. From here the organiser and I have a discussion about the organising model, what it isand how it works.
I then attend a CPSU/CSA your rights at work campaign meeting. Steed ( Community Campaign Organiser) quickly outlines the expectations in terms of media, brochures, pamphlets and then we all enter a discussion about what these communcations should say and how they should be devlivered. I feel very priviledged to be involved in this discussion.
After lunch I met with Sue Thomas (Organiser) who outlined to me the reclassification campaign for Specified Callings (professionals) occupation groups. Her campaign has been long and is yet to be brought to conclusion, complicated by bureaucracy and job promotions within government. I wish her a speedy end to the campaign and success for those waiting for an outcome.
Following this, around 4p.me. I attend a Schools Electorate Delegate Committee chaired by Wendy Parer ( organiser)and am enlightened further as to the difficulties experienced by clerical staff in schools and recognise that all of us employed in education have a responsibility to support each other so that we can all improve our working conditions.
At 5.30 my day ends and my mind is racing with ideas from all I have learnt.
Wednesday September 5th
The second day is always easier because you at least know where the tea room and the conveniences are.
Unfortunately I don't get to go to the WAIRC as one party has been in a car accident (no-one is hurt) and the hearing has been re-scheduled. I really don't know if I would have been able to fit it into the day anyway because I then visited the Growth Team members led by Simon Bibby and am explained and witness the process used by the CPSU/CSA to recruit members. The process and information is very informative and again I think of how it can be utilised by the SSTU. This meeting takes me write up to lunch time after which I re-visit Steed to further discuss the development and progress of the Your Rights at Work Program.
Thankyou to all the people at the CPSU/CSA who all were very friendly, supportive and provided me with a wealth of information and a display of passion for their work which is admirable.
Day 1-Monday 27th August ‘07
The first day of the programme. How will I get there? Take the car in to the City or catch the train? Sensible decision - take the train in!
Anxious and curious I arrive at the Unions W.A.Building and I am greeted by Lorraine, I don’t know this yet but she is the Coordinator and her warm personality will soon make her the confidant and friend of the group. There are always fresh flowers on display (learn later they are from her own garden) and fruit.
Dave Robinson speaks – he doesn’t know that I share the same last name as his. He welcomes us and encourages us to make the best of each day. The hours fly quickly. Before I know it I am on the train again making my way back home.
Day 2- Tuesday 28th August ‘07
This day is exceptional. This is the first of many sessions with Maria. A committed Union activist she engages us in learning the necessary process of having Conversations with people – what she teaches is applicable to any conversations but because this is Union she focuses on having those conversations which engages people in Union issues. The mood lightens in the afternoon as Monica through the use of games, through these games we learn to test our perceptions she goes on to give us practical tips on being Union members. Unfortunately, I have been timetabled into another place and have to leave early.
Once in the SSTUWA building I am briefed on an activity I have never engaged in. I am nervous. I sit at the phones – it’s called phone polling. I read from a script and as I talk I grow in confidence. I get the sense that people are willing and eager to talk about the upcoming elections but some remain coy about certain questions. It doesn’t matter. What really matters is that they are all enrolled and are willing participants in this process of electing a government.
Day 3-Wednesday 29th August 07
In the morning I make my way to State School Teacher’s Building. The day goes so quickly. The obligatory tour of the site…We meet Frank, in charge of Members Direct. Then it is on to Don, who represents the Principals. Each of them give us a brief outline of their portfolio. This over, they revert back to work. Silence falls once more in the cubicle. I leave quietly. I talk to Robyn, she is from the country and is also an Anna delegate. She is on Executive and she spends time telling me about the new Agreement that the Executive are currently holding meetings about. My awareness is raised on the significance of the little Red Book and learn how to use this and the Teacher’s Union web site. I leave the building at the end of the day with a new appreciation for my Union.
Day 4-Thursday 30th August 07
I am back in the Teacher’s Union Building. The programme is busy one. One of the speakers for the day is Joy, she is the Occupational Health and Safety Officer for the Union. She refers to a situation that I am aware of . I am impressed that she has taken the care to say that she is aware of the situation and counsels that sometimes it may be necessary to have more than one Occ. Health and Safety rep. on site to take care of the area. At the end of the session, I ask for additional time to spend with Linda. She gives me some tips of Digital photograph which I promise to follow up.
Day 5-Friday 31 August 07
I have been waiting all week of this day. It is special. We are going to Lunch at Parliament House.
Lunch is superb. I see Mr. Kobelke sitting at his table - dining relaxed and smiling. At another table sits Graham Edwards, a flash back to young men being sent to fight in the Vietnam War. I have long admired his common sense approach and his governance on many occasions but he is not one in office now… I gawk a little…. but good manners say that I should not approach him.
Then it is was on to Solidarity Park. We got the extended version of the history of Solidarity Park. The speaker was an Irish man, Seamus. His lilting Irish brogue and good humour make, what was a tragic event in the history of Western Australia, enthralling to listen to.
One of the younger Anna’s found it all too much and gave way to a flood of tears.
Day 6 Monday 3rd September 07
Today, it’s about Marginal Seats. Chris and Jayne are two community Campaign Organisers. They say that the people did not vote for work choices. They talk about marginal seats which have been identified. I learn about the importance of marginal seats in the forthcoming election campaign. Having worked briefly for the marginal seat of Swan I realise how important it is to maintain the support and activity in this electorate. They go on to explain the necessity of the link between the Election Campaign and Your Rights at Work. It begs the question don’t we all want to live in a Fair and Just Society and to leave this legacy to the next generation.
Day 7 Tuesday 4th September 07
Today, again there is a change. I get lost on the train and when I get off it is the wrong station. I stop and ask for directions. I am back on the train, this time it is the right station. I ask for additional directions and turn up at the Australian Services Union building, a little bit flustered and a little bit late. I get settled in and Sue who is also in the Anna programme takes me under her wing. She demonstrates how the technology enables her to gain access to people she supports and works with. One of the highlight this day. I attend a meeting with Fergus .The meeting over coffee is intense and varied. The men ask the questions – these men have been working for almost 30 years and are concerned that changes in the workplace will see them lose more than they are willing to forgo. They try and keep upbeat about the matter. They rely on their loyalty to see them through the changes. Their hour is over. They agree to meet in a month’s time. It starts to rain and we make a hurried dash for the car.
Day 8 Wednesday 5th September 07
It’s off to an early start. I make sure I am there ahead of time. I get my first assignment for the day. It is to attend a meeting with a group of workers in a Council. The delegate tries to get a resolution but when she leaves she knows that it wasn’t the one that she had planned for. Lessons have to be learned and sometimes they come at a cost. I return to the office but Sue, one of the delegates tells me of another visit – this time to the city. Sue is new to the job and is paying her first visit to a group of workers. She is happy and prepared. The members appear in two groups they know that the Union has negotiated for them successfully before and will do so again. The conversations around the table are successful but we come away without any new members. Sue is happy and promises to pay a visit next month. Back to the office and out again.
This time we leave the city far behind and make our way to the Hills. The group of delegates are there, but we arrive late. Apologies are in order and the meeting gets down to business. Wayne, The delegate negotiates on behalf of the men – tough and firm – the employer’s this time concede on most of the negotiations or do they….? They promise to get back to the next scheduled meeting with their decisions on pay. I wonder wether my presence there made it all so polite? I marvel at the tenacity and dedication of the all of the delegates I have met this day.
What allows them to keep up this level of work and committement? They all have a sense of fairness and social justice if only that could be bottled and shared around
Day 9 Thursday 6th September 07
I am back at Unions W.A building. The guest speaker this morning is Sue Ellery, MLC. Her foray into politics started at the tender age of 13. She narrated her first experience of social inequity which spurred her on her current path. She said that women do not think they have the necessary skills but her advice is that you learn these skills by DOING! If, she advised you get a negative thought then you must push out the negative and treat it as a learning exercise. She raised these questions which included “Who is it you want to influence?” “Who can you call on in the role of a Mentor?’ She also advised Never beat yourself up, Fix it and move on; Observe and be empathetic! She words were a challenge. Her warmth and sincerity impressed me and made me glad I that I was a member of her audience.
Day 10 Friday 7th September 07
The Media is the highlight of the morning or really Women in the Media. The room gradually fills and the panel of speakers begin to talk. We listen in awe to three speakers, Scott Toni and David. They tell me what I have always suspected…News is just a 10 second GRAB. Conflict sells images and newspapers …how many times have I complained about the credit given to people who are violent in society …no good news stories today now I know its no use complaining but then again, can it not be changed?
Where has all that time gone… flown by in the blink of an eye. What will you do with all this new information? They are talking about a project…what project will I do? I am not sure I can apply this to the workplace … I need time to think ….
At the end of the day we get handed our certificates. It shows the fact that I have attended the Anna Stewart Memorial. I have no way of showing the mixture of emotions and feelings that I have experienced doing the course nor does it show the friendships I have formed.