The Andrews Labor Government has come out strongly against proposed Federal legislation that undermines workers by attacking their union representatives.
The Labor Government has made a submission to the Australian Senate against the Ensuring Integrity Bill, which targets the union movement and its officials.
The Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2019, which could be passed before the end of the year, expands the conditions under which an application can be made to deregister unions and ban union officials.
It also introduces a so called ‘public interest test’ that limits the freedom of unions to merge their organisations.
In its submission, the Labor Government emphasises that the right of employers, workers and their representatives to negotiate agreements about workplace conditions is enshrined in the Fair Work Act 2009 and in International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions, to which Australia is a signatory.
The submission highlights that the Bill is likely to contravene a number of ILO Conventions, including freedom of association and the right of workers to organise and bargain collectively.
Further, it says the Bill unjustifiably interferes with union democracy and the right to self-determination, which in turn will adversely affect the right of unions to represent and advocate for their members.
It argues the limitations sought by the Bill are only permissible under ILO Conventions if they are reasonable, necessary and proportionate to achieve the Bill’s objective. While improving union governance is a legitimate objective, the Bill’s proposals are not justifiable or proportionate to achieve this aim.
The Victorian Government has also made a submission to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee on the Inquiry into the Fair Work Laws (Proper Use of Worker Benefits) Bill 2019, stating similar concerns about human rights infringements.
Both submissions will be published on the Parliament of Australia website.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Industrial Relations Tim Pallas
“This Bill is an attack on the human rights of workers.”
“No other democratic country imposes these restrictions on unions and Parliament quite rightly rejected this Bill when it was first introduced in 2017 – we’re calling for it to be thrown out again.”
“Unions are the voice of Victoria’s workers – we cannot stand by and watch that voice be silenced. They should be well governed, but not at the expense of workers’ rights or their freedom to organise and bargain collectively.”