What is the ACTU?

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is the peak organisation representing unions in Australia and around the world.

The ACTU has been around since 1927 when 108 unions held their own ‘parliament’ in Melbourne and voted to set up a national union for unions.

Today the ACTU is made up of 46 unions and represents around 1.6 million Australian workers.

There is a branch of the ACTU in each state and territory of Australia. These are Unions NSW, Unions ACT, Unions NT, Unions Tasmania, SA Unions, Unions WA and Victorian Trades Hall Council.

A voice for working people

By working together, the unions in the ACTU have become a voice for working people on many issues at work and beyond.

From the very beginning, the ACTU has spoken up about fair pay and safer work. It also helped introduce paid holiday leave, first winning one week paid leave in 1941.

Later the ACTU spoke up for female employees and helped win a landmark equal pay case in 1969. Before that, women were paid less than men for doing the exact same job.

In 1993, recognising the growing proportion of women in the workplace, the ACTU decided to have at least equal numbers of men and women on its national executive.

In 1986, the ACTU helped introduce compulsory superannuation for all employees. For the first time, employers now made regular contributions to a retirement fund for all employees.

Today the ACTU continues to speak up about rights at work and other social issues that matter to working people.

International action

As the voice of Australian unions, the ACTU is part of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Former ACTU President, Sharan Burrow is currently the ITUC General Secretary.

The ITUC speaks out about many issues, including child labour, forced labour and exploitation of domestic workers.

It also promotes the Playfair campaign for fair employment related to international sports events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games.

Read more about Playfair

Learn more

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