Working people are so often locked out of the halls of power, which leads to decisions being made without their interests being taken into account. Recognising this, the Victorian union movement is looking to upskill people who are already leaders in the workplaces - delegates, HSRs and activists - to get them elected to positions of power in their communities.
Penny Flynn was an ASU delegate who participated in the inaugural class of Candidate School in 2020, and was subsequently successful in getting elected to her local council of Horsham.
Since then, she’s already been able to demonstrate the benefits of having working people in these positions.
“I think my influence at the table has been a good thing, because I bring a different perspective. A working person’s perspective.”
Things happen slowly, so she readily admits she hasn’t been able to totally overhaul her local council. But just by being involved she has been able to affect changes.
“We were talking about the budget, and I was reading the document, and where it was talking about staff salaries it said ‘a new agreement will be negotiated after July 2022.’ And I thought to myself, that doesn’t sound right. So I pulled out the Agreement and it says that the parties will start negotiating 12 months before the expiry of this Agreement. No other person would have thought of that. They would have just let it go through, but now everyone knows they need to start negotiating with the workers under the Agreement.”
Especially when it comes to industrial issues, no one thinks about them in the same way that union members do!
“I’m all about people. I’m certainly not there for myself. We need more unionists at the table because they don’t normally do what they do for themselves.”
The 2021 intake of Candidate School has welcomed a diverse cohort of union activists ready to throw their hat in the political ring.