Australian workers rights to take industrial action would be seriously undermined by legislation introduced into Federal Parliament today, the ACTU said.

The changes would make it nearly impossible for many workers to collectively bargain for better wages and conditions, said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

Ms Burrow said that the Workplace Relations (Better Bargaining) Bill would remove workers’ rights to take industrial action in many circumstances and give employers new powers to avoid bargaining with their staff.

“The legislation would effectively seek to ban the right to strike. Employers who are not even involved in an industrial dispute would be able to prevent employees from taking industrial action under the legislation,” Ms Burrow said.

”The legislation is extreme, unnecessary and at odds with international law. There is no evidence to justify the bills. The level of industrial action in Australia is at record lows and long-term productivity growth is at record highs.

“The Howard Government is again taking the side of employers against workers. The changes would tip the balance in workplaces even further in favour of employers. The basic rights of employees need to be strengthened, not weakened.

“The government’s changes would persecute workers for trying to bargain or to take industrial action over legitimate claims for better wages or workplace conditions.”

Ms Burrow said that the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Bill also introduced in parliament today would impose severe penalties on construction workers and unionists engaged in normal organising and bargaining activities.

“The construction industry legislation is biased against unions and a threat to all workers because the government has signalled that it will extend its provisions to other industries,” Ms Burrow said.