The labour movement formed the ALP in the 1890s. It was designed to be the political wing of the movement with the aim of electing members to parliament who would represent the interests of working people. Trade union members were largely responsible for the formation of ALP policy and setting in place an organisation capable of winning elections.
The ALP aims to support trade unions in pursuit of their industrial goals and many unions support the ALP in pursuit of its political goals.
Many – though not all – Australian unions are formally affiliated to the ALP.
The basis of affiliation with the ALP is in accord with the objectives of the trade union movement that aim to improve the standard of living for their members. By affiliating to the ALP, trade unions make use of political action as well as industrial action to achieve outcomes for their members.
Affiliation to the ALP is at the state level – state branches of the unions are affiliated to state branches of the ALP. Affiliated unions give financial support to the ALP, and have voting rights at State Conference, where they are represented by 50% of delegates to the conference.
An association with a political party allows an industrial organisation the avenue of pursuing its aims for the benefit of its members along more than one path. The ALP aims to support trade unions in pursuit of their industrial goals and many unions support the ALP in pursuit of its political goals.
Common Goals, Separate Organisations
The union movement is also involved in politics through its peak bodies – the ACTU and the VTHC.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is the peak body of the trade union movement in Australia representing about 2.5 million workers. Unions affiliated to the ACTU represent workers in all types of employment: from truck drivers, butchers and teachers to metal workers, pharmacists and bank clerks. The ACTU is not affiliated with the ALP and therefore does not contribute towards policy formation or to the funds of the ALP.
The Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) is one of six branches of the ACTU and represents the Victorian trade union movement. Like the ACTU, the VTHC is not affiliated to the ALP, although many of its member unions are.
Unions and Divisions Affiliated to the Victorian Branch
- Metals Division
- Printing Division
- Vehicle Division
Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union of Australia
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union
Health Services Union