Unions, Land Council In $50b Compact

Long time seafarer, union and Aboriginal activist Terry O’Shane, Chair of the North Queensland Land Council got together with
the MUA’s Ian Bray last year and got to work.

On October 8, their work came to fruition.

Four Queensland mining and transport unions have signed an historic agreement with the North Queensland Land Council (NQLC).

The compact will see unions work more closely with Land Council representatives during the estimated $50 billion maritime and
mining projects getting underway – projects that involve wage negotiations involving developments on Aboriginal land.

The Social Compact, between the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), Electrical Trades Union (ETU), Australian Manufacturing
Workers Union (AMWU), CFMEU-Mining and Energy and the NQLC, is the first of its type in Queensland. It is likely that other Queensland unions will join this and future compacts.

It will apply across all industries, but will have most impact in Queensland's $50 billion mining and minerals processing industries, as well as tourism, forestry and fishing.

The Queensland Compact is based on agreements signed at the project level by Western Australia unions and the Kimberley Land Council and extends the concept to a more permanent, broader formal relationship.

It is expected this Compact will provide a template for similar agreements across Queensland and the rest of Australia. Once extended across Australia such Compacts will have their most immediate impact in Australia's $180 billion mining industry, as well as various tourism, fishing and forestry locations
Maritime Union of Australia assistant national secretary, Ian Bray, said it is time to stop paying lip-service to the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as we plan the nation's economic development.

"It has become increasingly obvious to ATSI and union leaders that many companies, including those that have enjoyed the benefits of Australia's rich natural resources and assets, have done very little to genuinely advance the rights of and opportunities for the traditional owners of many of those resources and assets.

"Through this Compact the signatory unions have decided to do something about that and will join with the North Queensland Land Council, whenever development projects or employment and training agreements are being negotiated, to ensure the traditional owners get a fairer share of the benefits of any development that goes ahead or is underway.

"We have already been doing many of the things listed in the  Compact on an informal basis, but it is time to make the arrangement moreformal and give it more teeth. For 150 years unions have been the main agents for spreading the benefits of economic development across the community. Through Compacts such as this we hope to do a better job of spreading those benefits across ATSI communities and closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage," Ian Bray said.

ETU secretary, Peter Simpson, said many mining and minerals processing companies have done a poor job, despite plenty of nice words, of providing meaningful and skilled employment for ATSI people.

"Through this Compact we will be working to get more ATSI people into apprenticeships and trades and put a stop to the corporate practice of using ATSI people in unskilled roles as a means of meeting employment requirements on traditional lands," Mr Simpson said. NQLC chair, Terry O'Shane, said the Compact will usher in a new era of partnerships between Aborigines and unions.

"All the parties here have worked in accord with one another to give meaning to the COAG's principles on Closing the Gap. It means employment and training will be taken out of the compensation regime of Indigenous Land Use Agreements and similar negotiations and will be treated as a right.

"Employment and training is a very important component in addressing the social and economic circumstance of our people, butwe are past the days where trading of our Native Title rights and interests will include these fundamentals.

"We are now in partnership with unions in pursuit of social justice and this is just the first step," said Terry O'Shane said.