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Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary promotes his Accord Mark VI wages campaign and vows he will not be defeated

PAUL MURPHY: The ACTU Secretary, Bill Kelty, was out again today, selling his Accord Mark VI wages campaign and vowing he won't be defeated in his efforts to transform the wages system. Mr Kelty is coming under increasing pressure to hold the wages campaign together in the face of employer resistance and widespread unemployment, but far from being intimidated, the ACTU Secretary is sounding a warning about a campaign to secure real wage rises for the next three years. David Burgess reports for PM.

DAVID BURGESS: Bill Kelty is very keen on talking about the future. His plans stretch well into the '90s and he insists this current Accord wage campaign can only be judged from a vantage point of say 1993. That may well be true but it's also a very secure defensive position to take when the critics are starting to attack your entire strategy. But while his current strategy stretches well ahead, its roots are in the whole history of the Accord, and he is making his move to decentralise the system now because as he admits, the Accord has led to real wage cuts, and he is to blame. Bill Kelty.

BILL KELTY: I share my own blame for in part, I am guilty of one thing, you see, perhaps the first trade union official in the history of this country prepared to go to say to the work force of this country that what you needed was a real wage reduction - not an increase, but a reduction - that is, this country had to accommodate the economic pressures of the time. I argued it and won it.

DAVID BURGESS: But those real wage cuts are now in the past and the ACTU Secretary is now vowing to get back what has been lost.

BILL KELTY: I accept that the task I have now and the tasks the union movement has now, is to ensure that the lost real income of those which have lost the most, is returned gradually, over time. The aspirations is no longer reductions in real wage rates but each year, for the next few years, the improvement in real wages of 2 to 3 percent for those people who have missed out. If there are people here who think that we are beaten, there are people here who think that we will give up, then all I can say to you is this: I have never given up in my life, never. And the task that I have set for me and our organisation is to repair the harm, repair the harm and to repair the hurt that some people have borne too unfairly, too unfairly. It will not be done stupidly but nevertheless, it will be done.

DAVID BURGESS: Well, most workers won't argue with that. After all, most people like a pay rise. The most important thing though, about the ACTU Secretary's speech is the language - repair the hurt, repair the harm. Bill Kelty is trying to come across like the great conciliator as well as being the battler for the lowest paid workers. This may always have been his motivation but the message tended to get caught up in his analysis of the big picture. Well, that's no more. Now he is trying to appeal directly to workers and doubting unions and as always, he is putting his reputation on the line. It's all part of collective decisions, but it's definitely Bill Kelty right up front.

BILL KELTY: We will ask for nothing more than the fair treatment of workers. For my part, I owe them one, I owe them one. I don't owe them just one, I owe them one for this case and the next case and the next case and the next case. I will only be defeated if time shows that I haven't healed the hurt, and I assure you, I will not be defeated.

PAUL MURPHY: A defiant Bill Kelty today.