PA members in Parliament - Sean Gannon

Earlier this month, a number of  Professionals Australia members travelled to Canberra to meet with the new Federal Government Ministers and other MPs.

PA members from engineering, pharmacy and language services met with over 90 MPs and discussed their concerns about how the current industrial relations and wages system is failing to deliver adequate pay and working conditions.

In this interview, Sean Gannon – former Intern Pharmacist, discusses his experience at the event.

How did you become involved with the union?

I have worked in community pharmacy for four years – three years of which I was a pharmacy student and one year as an intern.

I joined the union when I became an intern and shortly after I was elected to the Professional Pharmacists Australia committee.

I’ve since left the industry as I felt employee pharmacists’ and technicians’ interests were often pushed to the wayside to accommodate employers’ interests. I believe that by joining a trade union such as PPA, pharmacists and technicians have the power to change that, which is why I recently took the opportunity to work at PPA as an organiser.

How did you find the event?

It was really interesting. It was my first time in parliament and the first time I had talked to politicians, so it was great experience to have the people responsible for making decisions in front of us and talk to them directly about what working people are going through.

The event itself saw around 60 union members from across industries meet with over 90 MPs and talk about the issues specific to their industries.

We were put into small groups of 4-6 members and chaperoned around to make sure we had the opportunity to talk with all MPs. I was fortunate enough to be in Michele O’Neil’s (president of the ACTU) group, along with delegates from the mining, aged care, aviation, and translating/interpreting industries. It was very interesting to hear how, despite how different our industries are, many of our problems were fundamentally quite similar.

What were the key issues you discussed with MPs?

We were asked to focus on one major issue, the issue I raised was the need for an industrial relations system that allows for much more robust multi-employer bargaining.

In industries like community pharmacy where there are over 5000 ‘small businesses’, to get enterprise agreements to cover all these employees, under the current system you’d need to negotiate them one employer at a time. This is obviously completely unworkable. This means small employers are slipping through the cracks, resulting in workers being left without any mechanism to fight for fair wages and conditions.

Would you recommend PA members attend events like this in the future?

Definitely – we know employer associations always make the most of exercising their political relationships, so it was a great to see politicians taking the time to hear the stories of real, working people. In order to make sure that we can fix these issues and protect the rights we already have, workers must be prepared to fight employer associations head-on.

This means joining your union, talking to your co-workers, raising awareness, and attending events like this to meet politicians.