Navigating an ever-changing landscape
The past year has highlighted the importance of adaptability and innovation in our industries, says Federal President Simon Collins.
The past 12 months has been a period of transition for the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance.
The appointment of Erin Madeley as Chief Executive was an opportunity to reset the union following the necessity to focus on survival during the COVID pandemic. Erin has hit the ground running with a plan to strengthen our union internally; to unite all four sections in shared campaigns for respect at work, better pay and conditions and safe and inclusive workplaces; and to draw on the goodwill of the wider community to amplify our voice and increase our impact politically and industrially.
This plan was discussed and endorsed by the Federal Council in Sydney in February this year — the first time the peak decision-making body of our union had met face-to-face since the start of the pandemic.
Out of the Federal Council meeting came a shared commitment to a more ambitious, more unified and more diverse union. We found that while we may have different jobs in different sectors of the creative and information industries, the struggles of workers are the same regardless of whether they are journalists, voice-over artists, back-of-house theatre workers or gigging musicians.
Long hours, lack of recognition and respect from employers, poor remuneration, bullying and harassment and the overarching impact of insecure work are common problems most of us experience in our working lives. This is why we bind together collectively as a union.
Another transitional feature of the past 12 months has been adapting to working with a Labor government — one that has a commitment to workplace rights, and that acknowledges the value of the creative and cultural industries to our society and economy.
At the Federal Council meeting in February, we heard from — and put tough questions to — the Minister for Workplace Relations and the Arts, Tony Burke. This was the first time any government minister had attended this forum for at least a decade.
The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill, which was passed by Parliament last December, was the first major piece of industrial relations reform by the Labor Government, ending nine years of attacks on working conditions by the Coalition.
Further improvements to workplace laws are still to come. It will be up to us as unionists to make sure there are benefits for MEAA members from these reforms.
“We have tremendous opportunities ahead of us over the next few years and with your ongoing support and commitment, I have no doubt we will make the most of them.”
Tony Burke has successfully shepherded the National Cultural Policy, Revive, through Parliament, delivering on a key election commitment to MEAA members.
Under Revive, there will be increased funding for vital cultural institutions, renewed support for local content creation, and enhanced access to artistic experiences for all Australians. These developments not only uplift the work of our members but also ensure that our society continues to thrive through the power of creativity and expression.
Revive not only recognises the crucial role our sectors play in shaping the cultural landscape of our nation but also emphasises the importance of fair remuneration, diversity, and accessibility.
The practical implementation of this is the establishment of Creative Workplaces, a new body that will put in place standards of employment in the creative industries and use the power of the public purse to encourage cultural change.
The Albanese Government has also reinstated funding to our public broadcasters and it has committed to introduce local content requirements for streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ by the middle of next year.
MEAA applauds these government initiatives, but we cannot rely solely on the goodwill of friendly governments to fix all our problems. Governments are pushed and pulled from all directions and will only respond to community pressure. Our job, as the largest and most established voice for creative workers, is to keep up the impetus for change.
As a union, our primary role will always be to safeguard the rights and interests of our members. Throughout the past year, we have engaged in robust negotiations, advocacy, and collective bargaining to secure fair wages, safe working conditions, and avenues for professional growth. Our efforts have resulted in significant improvements across various workplaces, ensuring that our members are valued, protected, and given the opportunity to excel in their respective fields.
We have also extended our reach by fostering alliances with other unions, industry partners, and community groups. This collaborative approach strengthens our advocacy, amplifies our impact, and underscores the interconnectedness of our industry with broader societal progress.
The past year has further highlighted the importance of adaptability and innovation in our industry. Rapid technological advancements (prominent among them the growing usage of artificial intelligence), shifts in consumer behaviour, and the ongoing impact of global events have presented challenges, but, as always, our members have risen to the occasion. MEAA remains at the forefront of embracing change, equipping our members with the tools and knowledge needed to navigate an ever-evolving landscape.
Congratulations to all MEAA members for your many wins over the past 12 months, testament to the power of solidarity and collective action as a union.
This article was first published as a message from the Federal President in the 2022-23 MEAA annual report.