By Bill Mason
BRISBANE — The Queensland branch of the Transport Workers Union is challenging a court threat to two union delegates who have been charged under the federal Workplace Relations Act of alleged breaches of "freedom of association".
The delegates and the union faced the Federal Court here on January 19, which set a hearing for April 24. The TWU state secretary, Hughie Williams, said the employment advocate's action was an example of how the federal government's laws are eroding workers' rights.
Williams said workers had had a "gutful of having the government push people right down ... all for the sake of big business". He said the laws had the effect of stopping unions from conducting normal operations, such as ensuring transport safety standards were maintained.
A leaflet distributed to commuters, authorised by Williams, states that: "For the first time in Australian history, rank-and-file workers (not paid union officials) have been dragged before the courts for carrying out their union activities in the workplace.
"Officials from the Employment Advocate's office, disguised as new employees of this Brisbane truck yard, set out to catch these two men carrying out their job delegate functions.
"Trucking bosses, trying to cut costs on things such as safety, helped the government's Employment Advocate drag ordinary workers into court.(Remember, that's the organisation John Howard said would spend its time protecting employees from unfair pay and conditions.)
"We urge you to tell Peter Reith and John Howard you will not tolerate ordinary people being victimised so big business can avoid its financial and safety responsibilities."
The leaflet calls on supporters of union rights to write to Peter Reith and John Howard, c/- Parliament House, Canberra 2600, to express their concern.