Last Thursday I went to a seminar by the President of the Australian Congress of Trade Unions Geradine (Ged) Kearney at Congress House. The event was sponsored by TUC international office and Unions21.
Ged has a nursing background and gave a honest and articulate appraisal of the Labour Movement in Australia (they have a Labour Party and affiliated unions in a similar way to the UK). The current Labour Government is in trouble in the polls and Ged fears a Conservative victory in the next General election. Despite being only a minority government it has done a lot of progressive things such as the Fair Work Act. While they wish the Labour Government had done more, they dread the return of a Conservative government. One campaign issue in the future by the unions will be to try and help build a truly progressive space for the Labour Party to step up to and fill.
I asked a question about the trade union run pension funds in Australia which I understand are very successful but currently under attack. Ged replied that they are a success story with the fund she helps manage worth over $20 billion yet the market has always been "pissed off" (Aussie for upset) by the idea of workers controlling their own capital and there has been constant attacks on union pension funds for no reason whatsoever.
I'm not sure how long Ged is in the UK but if you get a chance to go and see her speak I would recommend it.
Update: I am reliably informed that Ged is now at the ILO in Geneva and is then going home but no doubt she will return to the UK at some time in the future.
Check Owen's more detailed and complete report of this meeting at Stronger Unions.