Unions to challenge Fair Work Australia bill

January 17, 2009

A group of Victorian trade unions have sought legal advice on the possibility of lodging a complaint with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) against the ALP federal government.

According to the December 27 Australian, the unions, which include the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and the Victorian Trades Hall Council, claim that Labor's new Fair Work Australia bill contravenes ILO standards in a range of areas.

Under Fair Work Australia, pattern or industry wide bargaining is outlawed, as are industrial actions during the life of an enterprise bargaining agreement. Secondary boycotts and agreements, including around environmental or broader social matters, are also prohibited.

These rulings together with the remaining restrictions on unions' right to enter work sites are in violation of ILO workplace standards.

Gary Robb, the Victorian secretary of the AMWU metals division, told the Australian that in his view the ALP "tried to please employers more than they needed to do. A lot of the stuff in the Fair Work bill is Work Choices rebadged."

On its website, the ETU points out that Fair Work Australia is worse for workers than the legislation passed during the reign of the infamous, Howard-era industrial relations minister Peter Reith in 1996.

ACTU president Sharan Burrow, who is on the public record saying that the tide had turned in favour of workers with the introduction of Fair Work Australia, was "not interested" in commenting on the proposed ILO complaint, according to the Australian.

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