For more than thirty years Australian unions campaigned for a paid parental leave scheme.
Before the late-1970s any form of parental leave had to be fought for in individual awards.
There was no general scheme that applied to all workers. Unions sought to change this, but it was a long and difficult fight.
In 1979 one year’s maternity leave became standard, but crucially, it was unpaid. This placed obvious stresses on working families who could not afford extended periods of time off work.
So unions kept campaigning.
In 1985 this right to a leave period was extended to adopted mothers.
In 1990 this right to a leave period was extended to fathers.
In 2001 casual workers were able to access this right after a union-led submission to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
These changes came because of working people, organised in their unions, campaigning tirelessly for them.
These changes were not easy, and took decades to realise. This is often the case. But when you are in a union you are part of a community, you know that someone will always have your back, and you are not alone.
This was vital in the struggle for working families to have decent rights to time with their families.
Unions were relentless advocates for the paid parental leave that was implemented in 2011. This included leading a community campaign to harness the massive amount of support for the scheme.
In under a month, right before the Senate was due to vote on the Bill, over 25,000 people signed the petition to support the scheme in a sign of the mass support that existed.
Working people deserve time to spend with our families. We deserve a decent work/life balance.
This is why unions campaigned for the parental leave rights we have, and why you can guarantee we will keep on campaigning to protect them and extend them in the future.