Unions NSW 2023 Annual Report

Foreword from Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey

Unions NSW kicked off the year with our election campaign, Essential Workers Deserve Better, a campaign that was unprecedented in our state’s history. Mobilising workers from across the public service—including teachers, paramedics, nurses, cleaners, prison officers, railway crews and more—we delivered on our goal of removing the Perrotett Liberal-National Government and ensuring essential workers who carried NSW through the COVID-19 crisis receive the respect they deserve from their elected representatives.

Across a six-month campaign we recruited over 10,000 individuals to take action, engaged more than 25,000 voters in target electorates and turned out at train stations, shopping centres and community halls to demand a better deal for workers and a fairer industrial relations system.

Our work did not end with the election of the Labor Government, and since the election we have celebrated the removal of the public sector wages cap, the creation of a $3.5 billion fund to deliver decent pay rises for public sector workers and significant funding commitments for schools, hospitals, healthcare workers and paramedics. We will continue to hold the Labor Government to account to ensure it delivers on all its promises and maintains progress in addressing the crisis affecting our essential services.

Alongside our affiliated unions, we continued to fight for workers’ freedom to be heard during elections. Following several years of advocacy against laws introduced by the former NSW Liberal-National Government to stop third party groups such as unions and civil society organisations from campaigning together and restricting the amount they could spend in election campaigns, the High Court found in favour of unions in February 2023. This was followed by the passing of the Electoral Funding Amendment Act 2023 (NSW), which set a fairer spending cap that will allow unions to keep the public informed on workers’ issues leading into state elections. While this result is a significant win for democracy and the freedom of political communication, given the Liberal-National Party’s ongoing hostility to workers and unions, we must remain vigilant against attempts by future governments to wind back these constitutional rights.

Our Injured Workers Campaign Network also achieved a number of wins, including the Labor Government’s commitment to the Pledge to Support Injured Workers, the passing of legislation to require a Unions NSW member to represent injured workers on the board of icare, and Labor’s agreement to form a standing committee of injured workers to advise the government on workers compensation matters.

The rights of migrant workers remained a strong focus this year. Unions NSW’s Visa Assist program provided over 1,000 legal services in 2023, up from 800 in 2022. In one case we assisted 6 women who had been subjected to severe exploitation at work to gain permanent residency. With our partners, we launched three reports which shone a light on the experiences of migrant workers and have made a strong case for increased legal protections to end migrant worker exploitation.

As part of our commitment to achieving gender equity in all NSW workplaces and laws, our Gender Equity team trained 894 people in their workplaces and presented at webinars and conferences. Our training assists participants to understand and empowers them to prevent gender inequality and gendered violence in their workplaces, as well as assisting workplaces to discharge their responsibilities in relation to paid family and domestic violence leave and the new Respect@Work requirements.

The NSW union movement has a proud history of supporting and campaigning for Indigenous rights, and we continued that tradition this year by backing the Voice to Parliament. The Unions for Yes campaign engaged activists, ran rallies, ran phone banks, held campaign events, distributed flyers and social media messaging and helped organise turnout on Referendum Day. While the result was not what we had wanted, we will continue to fight for Indigenous rights and justice for our First Nations people.

We also took the opportunity to refresh the Unions NSW brand and update the organisation’s website. A new logo, colour palette and font stack draws inspiration from historical union imagery and ensures accessibility on the web and in print. The revamped website provides a wealth of information and resources for union members, campaigners, delegates, organisers, the media and the public.

As we look to the year ahead, Unions NSW remains committed to ensuring its more than 600,000 members enjoy the benefits of good jobs, decent pay and safe, healthy workplaces. We look forward to continuing the fight with all our affiliates and activists for a fairer and better industrial relations system, adequately funded essential services and a fair go for workers, their families and communities.