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The Fifth Estate

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The State of the Union

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What is the future of trade unions in 21st century Australia?

Do they suit the needs of workers and the culture of employment in the times we live in?

Australian workers are facing unprecedented pressures: the mining boom may well be over, manufacturing and export companies are struggling or failing to remain competitive, and the newly elected federal government is disinclined to subsidise companies that can’t support themselves.

As Ford, Holden, Toyota and now Alcoa shut their factories in Australia, and Shell and others look likely to follow (with SPC Ardmona spared at the eleventh hour), thousands of workers will look to their unions for leadership and support. At the same time, a royal commission into union governance and corruption will absorb the time, money and focus of unions as they try to help their workers.

The Australian trade union movement has a proud past, but can it survive unchanged into the future?

Joining host Sally Warhaft for this discussion, our guests are Associate Professor John Howe (Deputy Dean of Melbourne Law School and Director of the Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law), Lisa Fitzpatrick (State Secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation), and Justice Alan Boulton AO (Senior Deputy President of the Fair Work Commission).

The Fifth Estate

The important stories of the day – off the front pages.

Sally Warhaft hosts a dizzying array of guests from the worlds of politics, culture, international relations and beyond, in a witty and revealing analysis of current affairs.