Stand up for Your Rights at Work

2 November 2018
Clenched Fist Graffiti

Image by David J Rodger.

by Richard McLeish

‘Don’t give up the fight,’ sang Bob Marley almost four decades ago. But the message is as relevant as ever in today’s workplaces.

The statistics can be a little worrying.

The term ‘working poor’ refers to employees that have income but are still considered below the poverty line. It can be due to a lack of hours or a meagre hourly rate and covers a staggering 40 per cent of the workforce. Sound familiar?

Another emerging issue is the exploitation of workers in the gig economy. More and more bosses are asking workers to provide their own ABN numbers so they can treat them like individual contractors – festival and event staff, freelancers, Uber drivers, etc. This effectively denies workers access to potential superannuation and accident cover as well as isolates them from each other.

Workers in Australia have traditionally relied on enterprise bargaining agreements for protection, where workers and bosses agree to a set of conditions, however the rules governing them are antiquated. The agreements are arranged by each separate group rather than a whole sector – for example, one local fashion label factory rather than a nationwide fashion agreement covering the industry.

One solution to such creeping problems is the ‘Change the Rules’ campaign proposed by the ACTU, or Australian Council of Trade Unions. They’re a group that represents many unions and councils, coming in to bat for the humble worker.

With the campaign, they hope to bring attention to such issues as both state and federal elections loom large on the political calendar.

For more info, visit or

Hear president of the ACTU Michele O’Neil talk about workers’ rights on Breakfasters on 2 November, 2018.