It has always been true that working people have had to fight to improve their lot in life. Fighting for what is right is in our DNA.
In 2020, though, workers were fighting a very different battle – saving Australia from the ravages of a devastating pandemic that threatened to plunge millions of people into economic distress and a cataclysmic health crisis.
Australian Unions met that crisis in the only way it knows how. Through collective action, a commitment to community and the well-being of others, and a conviction that science and solidarity would be the equal of any challenge we had to face.
And so, while the pandemic is exacting a terrible toll on countless countries, Australia has so far been saved from the very worst that COVID-19 can exact. The resolve to commit to each other and prioritise the needs of the community from this country's essential workers helped us to hold the line.
2020 in Australia was the year of the worker.
These are the everyday heroes working in our shops, our early education and health systems, cleaning our workspaces and keeping them COVID free, running public transport, teaching our children and in countless other sectors.
They are what saw Australia through its worst crisis in living memory.
The values that have underpinned this enduring Australian social contract are union values. They also reside in the long and proud history of international trade union movement and institutions like the International Labour Organization.
This book is testament to the vital role the labour movement plays as a powerful civic force for good – underpinning democracy and winning social justice.
Despite years of vilification by its political opponents, misrepresentation by self-interested media oligarchs and attempts to pass hostile legislation to weaken the union movement, here we stand, resilient, focused and determined to continue to do what is right for working people.
There is still plenty to be done.
The pandemic exposed the Australian economy's dependence on insecure work. A virus will exploit a willing host, and COVID-19 found the perfect partner in insecure work: workers on those arrangements faced the invidious choice of working on regardless of their health or not working at all and not getting paid.