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Issue #1682      April 29, 2015

Oppose the witch hunt on unions

The intended outcome of the Abbott government’s Royal Commission into trade unions can be expressed in the scenarios of working weekends and night shifts without penalty rates, on a reduced minimum wage; no access to dismissal appeal; your union official with no right of entry; awards abolished; workers on individual contracts competing with unrestricted influx of visa workers on $3 an hour.

It is toward these ends that the government has commissioned the inquiry – and a witch hunt targeting individuals as well as unions – by the Productivity Commission. All long-held and hard won protections and benefits are now targeted.

The Abbott government came to office with an agenda to reshape Australia’s social and economic fabric in the interests of big business. It launched a vicious attack on social security, schools, Medicare, universities and the public sector in last year’s budget. Then last December, after consultations with employer bodies, the government set up the Productivity Commission’s review into the industrial relations framework.

One of the main areas of focus is the future of awards and their contents.

A Royal Commission is not needed to investigate alleged criminal activities by individuals. It gives the impression that such activity by trade unionists is endemic and systemic and hurts the reputation of the overwhelming majority of highly committed and hard working union officials. It is the job of police to investigate criminal activity and there are already adequate laws to do this.

The government’s real aims are political. They include:

  • Criminalising legitimate trade union activity – eg legitimate action taken to pressure employers when bargaining is treated as “coercion” or “bullying”
  • Destroying the reputation of the trade union movement in the eyes of members and other workers and undermining trust between workers and union officials
  • Providing a justification for the next round of savage anti-union laws and to strengthen the draconian powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) to police and hound workers and trade unions in the industry
  • Placing tighter controls on trade union funds such as banning or requiring membership ballots before spending money on donations, political activity, etc.
  • Deregistering the Construction division of the CFMEU and seize its assets
  • Reducing or removing trade union representation on industry superannuation funds to give absolute control to private financial institutions.

Abbott has committed to taking the policies purporting to arise out of this Royal Commission to the electorate at the next election in 2016. The Coalition must be defeated.

The Royal Commission into trade unions should be shut down and the money redirected to socially useful purposes. It is important to lobby and convince as many cross-bench Senators and Labor Senators and MPs as possible to oppose Abbott’s ABCC legislation and to have the existing legislation repealed.

It requires a strong and militant trade union movement working with the community to defeat the Abbott government’s attack on unions and its austerity measures.

See next article.

Next article – Hands off penalty rates – Workers’ Rights Campaign

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