Remembering Bob Hawke

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Bob Hawke, former Prime Minister and President of the ACTU, passed away on the 16th of May 2019.

Bob joined the ACTU as its Advocate in 1958, representing the union movement to the Arbitration Commission, which was the centre of the industrial relations system at the time.

He was a tireless and brilliant advocate for working people.

Every year he would argue for an increase in the wages for all Australians at the Arbitration Commission.

These cases became legendary. In those days we didn’t have enterprise bargaining, instead we had thousands of Awards which covered the workforce  – and each year the union movement would argue before the Arbitration Commission for a wage increase for everyone.

Hawke’s biographer wrote about one hearing where he spoke for twelve consecutive days for a wage rise for working people, and by the end of the hearing was so exhausted he had to prop himself up against the desk to stand.

In 1969 Bob was elected as ACTU President, and he led the union movement until 1980 when he entered parliament.

Under his leadership the ACTU spearheaded a series of important industrial campaigns, and even led a general strike to defend universal healthcare in 1976 – 2 million people took action!

He was well-known for acts of solidarity, with his fierce support for the anti-Apartheid movement a particularly prominent example.

His renditions of the union song Solidarity Forever were legendary.

In 1983 Hawke was elected Prime Minister, leading a new Labor Government.

His government worked closely with the union movement in an agreement known as the Accord. Under this agreement Hawke and the ACTU delivered substantial reforms: Medicare, national workplace health and safety changes, and superannuation, just to name a few.

We won’t forget you Bob!

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