Legislation to be introduced into Federal Parliament today will mark an historic turning point to restoring workers’ rights after a decade of attacks by the former Coalition Government.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the industrial relations legislation is the result of a concerted campaign by unions to scrap WorkChoices, which undermined the wages and conditions of Australian workers.
“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.
“From what we already know, it will be a major step forward from WorkChoices, which removed workers’ rights.
“Workers and activists campaigned like never before to rid us of 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 unions expect the legislation would deliver:
  • Strong rights for workers to collectively bargain and be represented by their union.
  • An industrial umpire with powers to settle intractable disputes.
  • A new role for the courts to enforce awards and the National Employment Standards, providing a strong deterrent against infringement of workers’ rights and entitlements.
  • A ban on further use of Australian Workplace Agreements, and a requirement that existing AWAs must comply with new national standards.
  • Unfair dismissal rights for all workers.
  • A fair and transparent process for setting minimum wages.
    Ms Burrow said under the new laws, unions would be well-placed to deliver improved wages and conditions for workers, and to protect their income and jobs in an uncertain economic environment.
    “This legislation is a major achievement but does not mean the campaign for better rights is over.
    “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,” Ms Burrow said.