Jacqueline King is the General Secretary of the Queensland Council of Unions. She has been a member of Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA for 11 years.
What does it mean to be union?
Being union means standing together as workers sharing a collective voice and having a seat at the table on the issues that affect us. It means organising and campaigning for strong health and safety protections, quality training and skills, better wages, conditions, secure jobs, and for respect in the workplace. Ultimately, it’s about having a strong collective voice for all of us.
What does it mean to you to be APHEDA?
Being a member of APHEDA is my way of expressing my solidarity with international workers who in many cases are doing it a lot tougher than here in Australia. It means helping to support projects that assist many disadvantaged workers, but importantly through empowering them in a collective manner and giving them the skills and support they need to stand on their own feet.
Why is building internationalism in Australia important?
We live in a global economy, with many big corporates in Australia operating internationally and across borders. The world economy itself is heavily influenced and controlled by large multinational companies who often try out anti-union, anti-worker strategies in one country, pilot what they can get away with, and then export their practices to a range of other countries, including Australia.
For unions, this means we need to develop international strategies to combat excessive forms of anti-union behaviour, and a great example of that is what we faced during the 1998 Maritime Union of Australia Waterfront dispute where international unions were able to place pressure on the Australian maritime industry from overseas and help influence the outcome of the dispute.
At a personal level, my union the Electrical Trades Union, connected with the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union in the Republic of Ireland after the Great Financial Crisis in around 2010, to develop an alliance and mutual strategies around the exodus of Irish skilled workers to Australia and how to address the number of unlicensed electricians who were in Australia at the time without any ability to get their skills assessed and recognised.
My role was to establish a Commonwealth Government approved skills assessment agency in Australia (Future Skills International) to assess electrical skills – offshore and onshore – to start the skills assessment process for Irish electricians and others on temporary visas here without electrical licenses. That experience showed me the direct power of working with other international unions in the same sector to combat industry issues and turn them into a positive for both countries and workers.
What part of APHEDA’s work are you most connected to or proud of and why?
I was lucky to undertake some work with the Laos Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU) and APHEDA in 2013 and 2014 around developing work health and safety capacity and knowledge within Laos. I also spent a lot of time with the local APHEDA representatives in that country and was privileged to see some of the women’s projects that had been in place for some time.
With APHEDA reps, we went directly to some of the villages at the end of a particular project to see how much the difference a training program had benefited many young women.
The project had not only enriched their lives and given them lifelong skills, but helped to lift them, their families and by extension their villages out of some extreme forms of poverty. To see the pride in these young women and how empowered they were was very humbling.
APHEDA projects make such a difference by building skills and helping people collectively rather than simply by sponsoring individuals with financial support.