QCU President hangs up gloves after three decades

Queensland Council of Unions President John Battams retires on 31 January, hanging up his gloves after three decades as a union leader in Queensland and Australia.

For the past four years, Mr Battams has been the union movement’s public face on state wide industrial issues affecting more than 2.2 million workers across the state.

His major achievements include leading the fight to restore fair treatment of workers after three years of Newman’s LNP, as well as shifting QCU focus onto campaigning.

Mr Battams said he would leave his day-to-day union activities with sadness but also optimism for the movement’s future.

“Unions hold values that are reflected in the Australian community,” he said.

“That bond between what unions do and how Australians believe people should be treated will never be broken, and will sustain unions and their members through any future challenges,” he said.

He rated the defeat of the Newman LNP government and restoration of workers’ rights as one of his most recent satisfying career moments.

In his time as Queensland Teachers’ Union general secretary from 1990 to 2011, he regarded reduced class sizes, improved pay and a united union with 96 per cent membership density as his legacy to the teachers’ profession.

“I’ve always believed that the mark of decent government is if it treats all parts of society with fairness. The Newman government failed on that count and was rightly punished at the 2015 state election by the people of Queensland,” Mr Battams said.

“Queenslanders have now seen restoration of industrial fairness and have a government that understands that you need to work with the community, not against them.”

Ros McLennan, elected QCU General Secretary in July 2015, now takes on the role as principal public spokesperson for the Queensland union movement. Michael Clifford is QCU Assistant Secretary.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union state secretary Rohan Webb has been elected to the now honorary position of QCU President.

Mr Battams said the QCU was in great hands and Ms McLennan’s successful record as a campaign leader would serve Queensland union members well.

Ms McLennan said Mr Battams could be proud of his achievements in the union movement with the QCU and ACTU, and in the Queensland Teachers’ Union.

“In 2012 John took on the role as the public spokesperson for union members in the wake of the Newman landslide. His reasoned and rational responses to the LNP’s vindictive, divisive and nasty government was significant in shifting public opinion,” Ms McLennan said.

She said the QCU had undergone a major organisational transformation during Mr Battams’ time as President.

“John has also been integral to elevating Queensland’s Labour Day as a ‘whole of community’ celebration, as well as restoring it to its rightful place in May after the Newman LNP government moved it without consultation.”

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