Workers will have enhanced rights to bargain for better pay and conditions and secure jobs under changes to the Labor Party’s national platform adopted at the National Conference.

The Labor Party has committed to a more effective bargaining system and a more activist role for Fair Work Australia in the promotion of good faith collective bargaining, says the ACTU.

“The recent actions of Qantas management demonstrated the need for more balance in the workplace system to protect workers’ rights,” said ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence.

“The reckless and provocative action by Qantas to ground its fleet and threaten to lock-out its entire workforce has highlighted the need for a more activist and even-handed industrial umpire and better access for workers to arbitration when employers refuse to bargain in genuine good faith.

“Qantas put the spotlight on a pattern of behaviour in which employers only pay lip service to the notion of collective bargaining and never have any real intention of reaching agreement.

“This can go on for years, with no circuit-breaker apart from the type of provocative action we saw by Alan Joyce, which has been endorsed by big business.

“Workers should be able to seek secure jobs and better pay and conditions without threats of lock-outs, big fines or punitive legal action, the use of strike-breakers or thugs to physically disrupt peaceful picket lines, or other extreme actions.”

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the platform endorsed by the National Conference today would build on the improvements to workplace rights delivered by the Fair Work Act.

“The Fair Work Act was established on the principles of good faith bargaining and unions have urged the Labor Party, whose core values centre on the rights of working Australians, to focus on this through its future platform.

“Labor must not only hold strong against a new wave of employer militancy that is threatening the livelihoods of working Australians, but dedicate itself to building on the gains from the Fair Work Act.

“We are calling on Labor to commit to improve rights and entitlements for all Australian workers, including the 40% who are employed as casuals, on fixed or short-term contracts, in labour hire and other non-standard forms of employment and do not have secure jobs.

“Harmonious and productive industrial relations are achieved through genuine negotiation and engagement with workers and their unions, not by making them the enemy.”