Union delegate reflects on role

20 October 2023

Sharon Musson is probably not what most people think of when they hear the term “Union boss”. Sharon is a proud wife, mother and grandmother, a member of the parish at All Saints Anglican Church and with her husband Greg, involved in the Wondalga RFS.
However, the Tumut local and long-term worker at a local mill is also preparing to celebrate 5 years of service as the President of the timber workers’ union (CFMEU Manufacturing).

“A lot has changed since I started at the mill on 25 March 1997. When I started at the mill I didn’t know how to drive, I’d never had a permanent job before. In the time I have been there I have attained my Certificate 4 in Training and Assessment, I’ve become a trained first-aider, I am on the employee consultative committee, I’ve been responsible for negotiating our Agreement at work and, I have become involved in the union statewide. The work has also changed. There have also been huge improvements in technology that makes the work safer but also more complicated, you can’t just wander in off the street and run the place”.

When asked what made her put her hand up for the NSW President’s role nearly 5 years ago Sharon is clear “I have gotten so much out of this work and being a union member, I wanted to make sure that future generations of Tumutians had the same opportunities”.

“In more recent years things have been particularly rough for our members in Tumut and surrounds as we have had to deal with both the fires and then the ongoing fear about what the lost of timber supply might mean for local jobs.
"I remember during the Dunns Rd Fire patrolling our property to put out embers and worrying about Greg my husband who was on the fireground but also worrying that these embers were the trees that were meant to keep me and my workmates in jobs. Every day since I have worked to make sure that timber jobs are not only protected but grow across NSW”.

“I have been really lucky to get to campaign and win on issues like protecting timber plantations from windfarms and getting subsidies for timber freight in Northern NSW after the floods but there is still plenty more to do. I am proud to serve on the partnership that the Federal Government has set up to consult with timber industry representatives but I really wish the State Government would set up something similar. Sometimes it feels like such a battle to make sure our members’ views are heard by their employers but also the government who has such control over log supply”.

We ask Sharon what the one step the government should be taking immediately to protect timber jobs is. She laughs and asks if she can say two “the first is to start planting plantations, they take a long time to grow and are central to our community being able to build houses and make furniture in the future. The second is to really listen to timber workers and make sure that when you are making decisions, you have the details from us about what they will mean for both those workers and their town”.

She said she is 100% committed to fighting for every timber job and also making sure these are good jobs that locals can raise their families relying on.
"That is a big task but with the backing of a great group of members I know we can give it a red-hot go”.