Fluro Fightback III: Q&A With Mark Seymour

An article about Mark Seymour’s performance supporting the union movement the following week.

Author: Mark Phillips, Working Life.

Date: 20 October 2014.

Original URL: http://workinglife.org.au/2014/10/20/fluro-fightback-iii-qa-with-mark-seymour/


Article Text

Australian music legend Mark Seymour will be the special guest performer at Fluro Fightback in Melbourne this Wednesday morning.

Best known as the frontman of Hunters & Collectors, Seymour has carved out a successful solo career since the Hunnas broke up in 1998. He has performed at numerous union events since then, including during the Your Rights At Work campaign.

Fluro Fightback is an annual event at Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station, organised by the National Union of Workers for Anti-Poverty Week to call for jobs we can all count on, policies to eliminate poverty, and equal rights for all working people.

The first event was held in 2012, and featured a performance by Billy Bragg. This year, Seymour will perform songs from his illustrious career, and will be joined by writer Van Badham from The Guardian, John Falzon from St Vincent de Paul Society.

Working Life was lucky enough to catch up with Mark Seymour for this exclusive Q&A ahead of Wednesday’s event:

Q: How did your participation in this event come about and why did you say yes to doing it?

A: I have appeared at various union meetings in the last decade. I wrote a tune called ‘Westgate’ in 2007 as part of the centennial of the ‘Eight-Hour Day’ celebrations in that year.

Q. How important do you think unions are in contemporary Australia, and what is your own background of involvement in unionism and with unions?

A. Unions are crucial. They are the only viable means by which wage earners can meaningfully negotiate adequate wages and conditions in a market economy.

Union membership needs to grow. There is a direct relationship with the casualisation of work in Australia and the real decline in wages that is has been trending now for several years and the fall in union membership throughout the work force.

In broader terms, economic strength depends on the capacity of all workers to live comfortably and to be able to participate in the economic life of the country. Low wages create a drag on growth. The deregulated labor market in the US is testament to this.

Q. How do you think unions can get the message out about what they have achieved and why people should join the union movement?

A. Good question. The advantages need to be explained in simple terms. National television campaigns are a proven model – however, unionism is traditionally demonised in the conservative media; although was it ever not so?

Q. One of the key focuses of the Fluro Fightback is on the links between insecure work and poverty. How important do you think this issue is?

A. Having recently witnessed my eldest daughter’s first foray into the work force, her only guide as to how she should be paid came from her family.

Her current terms of employment are very good because she eventually found an employer who was willing to play by the rules with regard to super and penalty rates but clearly there are vast numbers of employers in hospitality throughout Melbourne who simply make up their own rules and hire and fire accordingly.

In my view, they are able to do this because of a broad level of ignorance throughout the community as to what real employment rights actually are, especially among students..

Q. What songs will you be performing at the event and why have you chosen those ones?

A. Will definitely play ‘Westgate’. ‘Holy Grail’ will be in there somewhere as well. Both of them are anthems of struggle.

Q. What else are you currently doing – are you recording? Are there more H&C gigs lined up after the reunion shows earlier this year?

A. Currently finishing a new album, entitled MayDay though the title track is coming slowly . . . It’s a big subject!

And no to another H&C reunion . . . I’m still recovering from the last one.