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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Open letter to ALP conference delegates Reject Work Choices! Defend the Right to Strike!


After Kevin Rudd was elected as federal Labor leader, he promised that a
Rudd government would “tear up Work Choices”.

So we were shocked to hear Kevin Rudd announce to the National Press
Club on April 17 that a Rudd government would keep key elements in Howard’s Work
Choices legislation, in particular the attack on the right to strike and the
ban on industry-wide (“pattern”) bargaining.

Rudd uses the rhetoric of “fairness” and “balance” between the interests of
employers and employees. But there is no balance in what he has announced.

First, the right to strike for the promotion and protection of workers'
social and economic interests is an internationally recognised human right.
Rudd’s proposal that workers would only be allowed to strike during the
bargaining period for a new enterprise agreement—and only as a result of a
secret ballot run by an external agency—is totally unjust.

Under both Rudd’s and Howard’s IR regimes, it is illegal for workers to
respond with industrial action to unfair management actions such as the
victimisation of union activists, restructuring of the workplace or unsafe
work practices.

Even protected industrial action would not be automatic. Workers could wait
weeks for the electoral commission to conduct a secret ballot, giving an
employer plenty of time to stockpile goods or contract out work. Employers
can also appeal against union applications for secret ballots, possibly
preventing workers from even having the right to vote for industrial action
during bargaining.

Rudd made no mention of any penalties for employers who lock out workers or
sack workers and replace them with cheaper workers. The restrictions are all
on the workers’ side.

Second, Kevin Rudd says “employees … will not be able to strike in support
of an industry-wide agreement.” This means that workers in more weakly
organised workplaces who have only gained improvements through industry-wide
campaigns will continue as second-class citizens on minimum wages and
conditions.

Any union that tries to improve the position of workers in such workplaces
will be threatened with penalties—like Work Choices. This too is a blatant
breach of international labour standards.

Kevin Rudd is not “tearing up” Work Choices. He is creating Work Choices
Lite.

We therefore reject the industrial relations policy announced by Kevin Rudd
at the National Press Club and call on ALP conference delegates to vote
against Rudd’s IR policy and draft an IR policy which enshrines the right to
strike and restores all workers’ rights which were stripped away under Work
Choices and the Workplace Relations Act.

Signatories (positions for purpose of identification only):
Dean Mighell, Secretary, Southern States Branch, Electrical Division,
Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union.
Chris Cain, Western Australian Branch Secretary, Maritime Union of Australia
Jamie Doughney, Victorian State President, National Tertiary Education Union
Jim Casey, Senior Vice-President, Fire Brigade Employees Union
Joan Doyle, Victorian Branch Secretary, P and T Group, Communications,
Electrical and Plumbing Union
Ian Bray, Western Australian Assistant Branch Secretary, Maritime Union of
Australia
Greg Hardy, Victorian Secretary, Mining and Energy Division, Construction,
Forestry, Mining and Energy Union
Chris White, former Secretary, United Trades and Labour Council (South
Australia) and now Canberra-based labour law researcher
Tim Gooden, Secretary, Geelong Trades Hall Council
Margaret Donehue, President, South West Trades and Labour Council
John Parker, Secretary, Gippsland Trades and Labour Council
Susan Price, President, University of New South Wales Branch, National
Tertiary Education Union
Andrew Hall, Section Secretary, Electoral and Employment Regulation Section,
National Councillor, Community and Public Sector Union
Jeremy Smith, President, University of Ballarat Branch, National Tertiary
Education Union
Carol Williams, President, Monash University Branch, National Tertiary
Education Union

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