New industrial relations laws introduced into Federal Parliament today will give working Australians the fundamental right to collectively bargain for better wages and conditions.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the Fair Work Bill turns the tide after a decade of attacks by the former Coalition Government and marks an historic turning point in restoring workers’ rights.

“Workers will be able to stand together with their colleagues and not be picked off individually as they were under WorkChoices,” she said.

“Workers and their families will be better off and so will the economy.

“The Bill is another step towards reversing the damage done by a decade of anti-worker legislation by the former Howard Government,” Ms Burrow said.

“It will be a major step forward from WorkChoices, which removed workers’ rights and undermined wages and conditions.

“Workers and activists campaigned like never before to scrap WorkChoices, and a year ago millions of Australians said the Liberals and Nationals had gone too far with their assault on our rights at work.

“We have more than 10 years of harm to undo, but we have turned the tide.

“Everyone who campaigned or voted against WorkChoices should take some pride in what has been achieved so far.”

Ms Burrow said the legislation should deliver:

  • Strong rights for workers to collectively bargain and be represented by their union.
  • Unfair dismissal rights for all workers.
  • A robust new safety net of awards and national standards, along with a fair and transparent process for setting minimum wages.
  • An industrial umpire with the teeth to safeguard workers’ rights.
  • Ms Burrow said these new collective bargaining rights will help protect the income and jobs of working Australians in an uncertain economic environment.

    “The legislation is a major achievement but does not mean the campaign for better rights is over,” she said.

    “Unions remain concerned that there are important areas of unfinished business.

    “We will never stop pushing for improvements in the workplace and better mechanisms to safeguard the jobs and living standards of working Australians.”