International trade unions condemn Australia’s anti-union laws

CFMEU Construction and General Division National Executive

International trade union leaders meeting in Perth have slammed the Australian government’s anti-union laws as a brazen attack on the rights of working people that violates international labour law and risks trashing the nation’s reputation as a bastion of democracy in the region.

Delegates at the Building and Wood Workers’ International Asia-Pacific Regional Conference in Perth this week have expressed solidarity with local unions and say they are deeply concerned about provisions within the Bill which allow unions to be deregistered and democratically elected officials banned.

These provisions will restrict freedom of association, the right to organise, and the right to collectively bargain, in violation of ILO’s Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention (No. 87) and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention (No. 98) which the Australian government has ratified and has an obligation to comply with.

Australia risks weakening its international standing as a champion of freedom if it adopts these regressive anti-worker laws.

Joint statement from Delegates

Workers from 20 different countries across the Asia-Pacific region have for years looked to Australia as a bastion for the protection of trade union rights; however, this legislation represents a major step backward in the eyes of the Regional Conference delegates.

Delegates from countries including the Philippines, India and Indonesia – all of which are proposing anti-worker reforms – were shocked to hear of at the scale of control this Bill will enable the Government and employers to exert over independent unions, just for doing their job of standing up for working people.

The problem is particularly acute in high-risk industries like construction, where having an organised industrial voice can mean the difference between life and death, the Ensuring Integrity Bill will put workers’ lives on the line to achieve politically motivated goals.

“The conference condemns the Morrison Government for this brutal proposed attack on the Australian workers’ lives, and, calls upon those cross-bench Senators with the power to uphold this legislation and stop interfering with the legitimate organising activities of Australian trade unions.”

Quote: Dave Noonan – Secretary, CFMEU National Construction and General Division and Deputy President of BWI

“These laws are a clear attack on Australian working people and their right to choose who represents them. This government has an ideological hatred of trade unionism and the ability of workers to organise collectively to protect their wages, conditions and fundamental rights.

“This Bill does nothing about ‘ensuring integrity’ in politics, the banking sector, or anywhere else in society. It does nothing to tackle rampant wage theft across the economy – including in the construction industry, where it’s estimated that $320 million a year in wages is going unpaid.

“Using the power and authority of the state to target your opponents is the stuff of tin-pot dictatorships. Crossbench senators who believe in the rule of law will reject this shoddy attack on the democratic rights of working Australians”

Quote: Allen Hicks, National Secretary of the Electrical Trades Union and BWI World Council member

“The laws being considered by the Australian Senate are more suited to a tin-pot dictatorship than an advanced democracy.

“Scott Morrison lets the big banks get away with facilitating child abuse and terrorism, but he wants to prevent hard working men and women from democratically deciding who should run their trade unions.

“The bill which is about to be shunted through the Senate would give the government the power to shut down trade unions for minor paperwork errors. This is an affront to democracy from a government that is scared of criticism.

“These proposed ideological laws will only foster increased wage theft and degrade workplace safety. Those politicians that support these abhorrent laws will be held to account at the ballot box.”

Quote: Ambet Yuson, BWI General Secretary

“The BWI is in solidarity and in support the efforts by Australian trade union movement including our affiliates CFMEU and ETU in opposing this anti-union and anti-worker bill.

“No other country in the developed world has such anti-union laws as these.

“Trade unions are democratic organisations, and this democracy is critical to ensuring workers’ interests are adequately represented within their movement. These intrusions are fundamentally undemocratic and we are proud to see our affiliates vigorously oppose them.”

/Public Release.