The Rudd Labor Government must move quickly to scrap the rest of Work Choices and give Australian workers a strong legal right to collective bargaining, unions said today.

A meeting of State and Territory Industrial Relations Ministers to be held in Sydney today (Friday 22 August) is expected to discuss the key features of the Rudd Govt’s new national IR system.

It is essential that the meeting address the urgent need to restore the right of Australian workers to bargain collectively for better pay and conditions given recent evidence that major employers are continuing to exploit the Work Choices IR laws, said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

Ms Burrow said it was wrong to assume that Work Choices was dead and the Rudd Government should bring in its main legislation to overturn the Howard Government’s IR laws as soon as possible.

“Tens of thousands of Australian workers are continuing to be hurt by Work Choices.

“In recent weeks there has been clear evidence that Telstra, Rio Tinto, Cochlear and other major companies are still exploiting Work Choices.

“Despite reaping windfall profits, many of Australia’s biggest companies are holding on to Work Choices and are refusing to let their workers bargain collectively for better pay and conditions.

“This week Rio Tinto has joined a growing list of companies that is snubbing the Rudd Government’s IR policy by refusing to negotiate with the union that represents workers at the Pilbara Iron Company.

“Last week one of Australia’s largest employers, Telstra was exposed as having a secret agenda to reduce pay and conditions for Telstra workers by sidelining unions at the company.

“Bionic ear manufacturer and exporter, Cochlear also announced it would refuse to negotiate with the union representing its workers despite a recent adverse ruling in the Industrial Relations Commission.

“We are seeing major employers ignoring the will of the Australian people at the last election to get rid of Work Choices.

“It is now time for the Rudd Government to deliver its new IR laws and to scrap the rest of Work Choices.

“Australian workers want a genuine right to collective bargaining and a strong independent umpire,” said Ms Burrow.