Steve Baker is retiring in August after 23 years as an Australian Workers’ Union official and more than four as Queensland Branch Secretary.
He is handing the baton to Stacey Schinnerl, who will become the nation’s first female AWU Branch Secretary, and new Assistant Secretary Mark Raguse.
Steve, formerly a local government parks and garden worker, joined the AWU 33 years ago. He was a delegate for a decade before becoming a full-time organiser, and served as Southern District Secretary, Vice President, on the National Executive, and as Assistant Secretary.
“Serving the members of the AWU Queensland Branch as their secretary has been the honour of a lifetime,” Steve says.
“I’d like to thank the thousands of AWU members I have worked with throughout my three decades with the union. It has been an enormous privilege to work for the greatest union in this country, and it has been an honour to hold your trust as secretary over the past four years.”
Steve Baker was awarded Life Membership at the AWU 2022 National Conference
Steve says his proudest achievements have included helping to grow to the union, making it stronger and leaving it on a strong financial footing. He also helped in the merger of Sun Super and Q Super, to provide better returns for members.
“The focus now is on making sure members’ interests come first, and building power – our political and industrial influence – to get better outcomes for members,” he says.
“And the only way to do that is by continuing to grow the union.”
Steve says he is leaving the branch in capable hands.
“Stacey Schinnerl will be exceptional in the job,” he says. “Her industrial knowledge, campaign skills and passion for justice for working people in this state is unmatched – there is no better person to lead this union into the future.
“It’s also important to note she got this job on merit, not because she is a woman, but because she is extremely smart and capable.
Stacey says she is proud to join Queensland and National AWU President Marina Chambers to create the nation’s first all-female branch leadership team.
Stacey joined the AWU 18 years ago aged just 23, after working at Griffith University, where she first became interested in industrial relations both as a student and then lecturer. She holds a business degree with majors in human resource management and employment relations.
A Gold Coast resident who commutes to Brisbane, Stacey took a brief time off to have her two sets of twins, now aged 12 and nine, then returned to co-ordinate major bargaining of out of the Queensland Branch.
“Most of my early career as an industrial advocate involved stock standard industrial disputes, unfair dismissal matters, state wage cases, and general rulings and statements of policy in the Industrial Relations Commission, including the jury service make-up pay case,” she says.
“In general my biggest achievement has been just making a difference in the lives of the working people of this state.
“Everything we did and do influences in a positive way our membership and how they live their lives. The enormity of the role we play has never been lost on me.”
The Queensland Branch includes sectors not covered in other states, including retail in North Queensland, public and private sector health care, plus aged care and disability services, all of which are mostly female-dominated.
As Southern District secretary Stacey led the state’s largest district with the strongest member density, and led civil construction. She says her abilities translate across all industries, no matter the gender numbers.
But with member gender diversity edging closer to 50/50, Stacey says her appointment has been well received and makes sense.
“I’m proud of the AWU for backing me in,” she says “At an organisational level it’s a bold, smart move.
“I can’t tell how many times I have been out, driving my AWU vehicle, and been approached by a gentleman who’ll say, ‘So your husband works for the union?’.
“I want to break down those misconceptions. It should be women to the front! A woman’s place is in her union!”