Long term Member shares his thoughts and experiences
DALE WEBSTER recently notched up 30 years as a CPSU Member. The Director of Building Standards and Occupational Licencing Department of Justice wrote to his union recently to detail his history as a CPSU Member and it’s well worth a read.
Read more about Dale and his email below.
A long history:
“I joined the union at the time the public service was coming out of the era where employees just did what the bosses told them,” Dale said. “It was the early 80s and probably for the first time the Australian Public Service started to have females in management roles. Up until the late 60s they had to resign if they got married.”
Workplaces back then:
“The major issues in our workplaces back then were women being able to compete on merit for jobs and the entry favouring younger people. There were issues with the merit principle; managers were able to override selection panel decisions. It was also the time when computers were being introduced, which caused a whole lot of workers compensation issues – the so-called RSI epidemic. This caused the fight for ergonomics in workplaces. In the mid-80s it was the fight around smoking in the workplace.”
“In a lot of our modern workplaces today, so these days it’s about reminding people about was has been achieved you can have a workstation set up properly; you’re entitled to have the correct ergonomics. Stress is the epidemic these days. I think that’s related to people being expected to do more, not just in the workplace but in society.”
Why he’s a Member:
“For me, you don’t achieve anything on an individual basis but we can improve workplaces collectively. Collectivism, if we look at what we’ve achieved as a collective of unions, superannuation was an achievement of the union movement, so was women being able to return to the workforce once they were married, and so was workers compensation.
“Right back to the Eight Hour Day campaign, we wouldn’t have achieved so many things without that collective. I do hear people say ‘why would I be a union member, what have they ever done for me?’ They don’t recognise their whole job is made from achievements from collectives over many, many years. From the structuring of the public service to the restructuring of awards in the 80s and 90s, all of those things are to the advantage of people in the workplace today.
“It’s almost like they do owe a debt to the older generation but also they have a debt to the future generations to keep improving things. For example we don’t have equality between the sexes yet. We still have abjurations of the merit principle today, there’s interference in merit. There’s still work to do. So people need to remember that from the collective we can now enjoy a lot of things in our workplaces today.
“If I was starting in a workplace today, the first thing I’d do is join a union. Not just because of my ideological bent but because there’s an advantage to that collective, and there are so many historical examples of that.
“Even though I am a manager, it doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to be supportive, continue to tell people it’s important to be a member of a union.”
Congratulations Dale on your milestone and your passion for your colleagues’ rights at work. Read his email below.
My father was a ‘union man’ and member of the Australian Workers Union all his working life so I didn’t have much choice and I joined the predecessor of the SDA as a 15 year old in 1980, whilst working at KFC. (I was strangely proud that my children joined a Union on their first day at work as well.)
I then joined what was then the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association (ACOA) on my first day in the Australian Public Service on the 1st of November 1983. Within ACOA I was a workplace delegate, branch councilor, national delegate and I owe my career to the knowledge I gained in those roles.
My membership of ACOA (I still have my membership card), the PSU and then CPSU has been continual since then – in fact when I left the APS to work for the then State Public Services Federation Tasmania (SPSFT) and found I was barred from being a member I continued to be a CPSU member by paying to the APS branch. I campaigned for staff to be allowed membership to CPSU (SPSFT) as it became and once permitted became the office workplace delegate and then a member of Council.
Following the Port Arthur tragedy I was privileged to move from CPSU to a role at Port Arthur and that lead me to a position of managing others and the end of my active union career, however I remain a member of the CPSU and a proud member (if I can’t be active I can at least let others know I am a member – my car displays a CPSU sticker and my office mug is a CPSU mug).
Reflecting on 34 years as a Union member and why I remain a member I think it comes down to one thing – I believe in collectivism – so much of what has been achieved in Australia and Australian workplaces has come on the back of that collectivism. The freedom my daughter has in choosing her career, the equality my best mate has as an indigenous man in his workplace, the workers compensation my brother received when he was injured at work and indeed the standard of living I enjoy are all testament to the strength of our unions and that collectivism.
The words of Ben Chifley ring as true today as they did more than 60 years ago:
“I try to think of the Labor movement, not as putting an extra sixpence into somebody’s pocket, or making somebody Prime Minister or Premier, but as a movement bringing something better to the people, better standards of living, greater happiness to the mass of the people. We have a great objective – the light on the hill – which we aim to reach by working the betterment of mankind not only here but anywhere we may give a helping hand. If it were not for that, the Labor movement would not be worth fighting for.
If the movement can make someone more comfortable, give to some father or mother a greater feeling of security for their children, a feeling that if a depression comes there will be work, that the government is striving its hardest to do its best, then the Labor movement will be completely justified.”
I would like to thank the CPSU for inviting me to celebrate my membership. In particular I would like to thank Tom for his leadership over the last few years – his wisdom and commitment have been superb.
I hope you, your staff and the other long serving members have a great time on Friday.
Yours in Unity,