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Issue #1675      March 4, 2015

Workers’ rights

The Abbott government, Murdoch and Fairfax media and big business have launched an all out war on the trade union movement in Australia. The government’s offensive includes the Heydon Royal Commission, Productivity Commission inquiry, anti-union legislation, increasing the powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), as well as a massive smear campaign aimed at criminalising and demonising legitimate trade union activity and militant unionists.

Photo: Anna Pha

The constant and pervasive barrage of anti-union propaganda, the repeated description of militant unionists as thugs, criminals, corrupt, etc, is having an impact. If the union movement is to survive the current offensive then it will require maximum unity of all trade unions and strong relations with and support from the community.

Trade unions are not some “third party” that interferes in the “employer-employee” relationship. They are the employees, the workers, acting in unity with one voice in defence of their members’ and other workers’ interests. It is through this unity in action that workers gain their power. Without trade unions workers can be picked off one by one by unscrupulous profit-hungry bosses.

The CPA supports this struggle for unity and the rights of workers to form trade unions, their independence to determine their policies and actions using their democratic structures without interference or restrictions.

In particular, the CPA calls for the repeal and replacement of all repressive and anti-union legislation by new laws which enable trade unions and their members to recruit, organise and defend their members. These provisions include:

  • The right to take industrial action including strike action and solidarity action
  • Collective bargaining as an absolute right for all workers through their unions, with enterprise agreements to be negotiated between trade unions and employer organisations with rank and file involvement
  • Individual contracts to be abolished and replaced by collectively bargained union agreements
  • Collective agreements/awards to cover all workers in an industry with NO restrictions on pattern bargaining
  • Union officials to have right of entry to workplaces to recruit members, represent workers and to organise the workforce in appropriate forms
  • Full inspection rights to workplaces and wages and time books for union officials
  • OH&S officers elected by unions, to receive paid training and have the power to halt work where there is a risk to the health or safety of workers
  • Labour shortages to be overcome by skills training of Australian workers as the priority
  • Rights for workplace union representatives to be able to carry out their job
  • The use of guest workers to be arranged through international cooperation and international agreements between trade unions and by agreement between Australia trade unions, employer organisations, and the federal government. Guest workers to be guaranteed established Australian rates of pay and conditions

Penalty rates and the minimum wage are under threat. The CPA is calling for an immediate increase in the minimum wage and for penalty rates to be retained at their present rates or restored if they have already been reduced. The CPA also calls for shorter working hours without a reduction in wages.

The CPA strongly objects to workers paying for their own wage rises through trading off hard won conditions.

Trade union representation on industry super boards should be maintained as is or increased.

The CPA believes we need to continue to campaign around industrial relations issues to eventually see legislation enacted which provides working people with the best opportunity to take on the forces of corporate greed prevalent in society today.

Next article – Govt pushes ahead with welfare card

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