WENDY HAND: Retired but still fighting

WENDY HAND: Retired but still fighting

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Being union is life changing. From the people you meet to the actions you take, it changes you. I would never have been able to stand up if I hadn’t been part of it. 

That’s why, even though I’ve retired from cleaning, I will never retire from the union movement.

Just a few weeks after my retirement, I was on the road to Devonport. I was asked to speak at a Senate inquiry into the cleaning industry, and Senators flew down to hear from cleaners, union officials and employers. 

I became really involved in United Voice when we fought for the Clean Start Agreement. Although it wasn’t adopted, I met many people along the way, people from other sections in our union. I met educators, correctional officers, and education facility attendants, and all of them had a story.

Too often cleaners are forgotten. They're the unseen workforce, invisible to some – but by speaking up, they cannot be ignored. Telling their stories is what gets Senators to Devonport. 

At the inquiry, I spoke about my experience and the experiences of others I know. In many ways, I’ve been lucky. I’ve got a husband who I can fall back on. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to retire on my income alone. But it shouldn’t be that way.

It’s knowing this that motivated me to speak at the inquiry. I know that there are many cleaners who don’t have that same support, like the cleaners at Woolworths, who were being paid as little as $7 an hour.

After the inquiry, I headed to Burnie, where I handed out at pre-polling. It was in the electorate of Braddon, just before the by-election, and I met with Justine Keay to discuss industry-wide bargaining. 

United Voice is fighting to have industry bargaining installed. It will allow cleaners from across the industry, no matter their employer, to come together and argue for better pay and conditions. This will give cleaners, as well as other workers, the power they need to secure jobs we can count on. After chatting with Justine, it was obvious that she is supportive of industry-wide bargaining, so I’m happy to see that she’s been re-elected to the seat of Braddon.

Now that I’m retired, I’m a member of Retired Unionists, which is a group run through Unions Tasmania. We’re busy with the Change the Rules campaign, which recognises that the enterprise bargaining system has failed workers, and the laws need to change.

In the lead up to the next Federal election, I think there’s a chance the Turnbull Government will be voted out. People don’t like that Malcolm Turnbull is prioritising tax cuts for big business above all else. 

However, it’s not in the bag, which is why I’ll be doing my part as a lifelong member of United Voice, and now, the Retired Unionists.

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