National

Union spearhead takes campaign up a notch

By AAP Newswire

Unions have rallied around the new Australian Council of Trade Unions president who has joined secretary Sally McManus in urging the fight against big business to be taken to a new level.

Former Textiles, Clothing and Footwear Union national secretary Michele O'Neil was elected ACTU president on Tuesday at the peak body's triennial congress in Brisbane.

She wasted no time in targeting corporate greed, singling out the vast fortunes of the owners of fashion labels Zara and Louis Vuitton while pointing out low wages for overseas and Australian workers on their supply chain.

"The exposure of this type of extreme and obscene inequality is creating a mobilising moment here in Australia and around the world," Ms O'Neil told delegates.

Despite membership sitting at about 15 per cent of Australia's workforce, Ms O'Neil believes this is the union movement's "moment".

"I urge you to bring every bit of fight and passion you have in you to the struggle ahead," Ms O'Neil said.

Ms McManus encouraged about 1000 delegates to go harder in promoting the Change The Rules campaign, which is seeking radical changes to workplace laws.

"Enough is enough. It's time for us to demand it - Australians need a pay rise, Australians deserve a pay rise," Ms McManus said.

Ms McManus said the current industrial rules were preventing workers from addressing a "wage crisis".

"It's time to ramp up our campaign to change the rules, we need to take it up a notch."

She attacked neoliberalism while stressing the importance of union values.

"In our culture the word 'scab' is simply an accurate description of someone's behaviour," the ACTU secretary said.

Ms O'Neil replaces Ged Kearney who is now the federal Labor MP for Batman after an upset by-election win over the Greens in March.

""I'm in awe of you. The commitment of the many to the many and belief in empowerment of us all," an emotional Ms Kearney said.

The ACTU will thrash out its policy agenda on Wednesday, as unions set a course for the next three years including for next year's federal election.

Removing ballots to go on strike and higher payouts for unfair dismissal are among the proposals up for debate.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk called for unity in the fight for Labor to win an upcoming round of federal by-elections.