Vale Laurie Carmichael

Last Friday Caroline Pryor and I said farewell to Laurie Carmichael just a few days after he died at 93 years of age.

Laurie was a true great of the Australian union movement who contributed in many different ways to the struggles of workers and their unions in Australia. They included the struggles for better wages and conditions in workplaces and across industries, strengthening members’ participation and control over the direction of their union, union members participation in great social movements, especially for peace and against the Vietnam war, the advancement of workers education programs, paid education leave, and workers’ culture, vocational education rights and systems, the struggle against employer control of unions and against the right wing catholic Grouper organisations that opposed wage claims and other union struggles, the development of union research centres and the associated role of computerisation, working out the role of unions in an Australian context in negotiating with Labor governments on taxation, social wage spending and industry development, and other initiatives. Laurie was an active member of the Communist Party of Australia and drew upon the CPA’s break from stalinism in the mid to late 1960’s to systematically study and apply ‘strategy” in a union campaign context. He was a prominent leading union official in the ten year struggle to defeat the penal powers used by governments, employers and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission against workers that came to a head in 1969. Later he applied the same concepts of strategy to the 6-7 year campaign that delivered a 38 hour working week as the standard unit of working hours in Australia. And some more.