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Date: Wed, 1 Jul 98 17:05:57 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Australia's reputation sullied by recent union-busting measures
Article: 38122
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.12407.19980703001530@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** labr.global: 523.0 **/
** Topic: Australia's reputation sullied by recent union-busting measures **
** Written 4:22 PM Jun 30, 1998 by labornews@labornet.org in cdp:labr.global **

Australia's reputation sullied by recent union-busting measures

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, ICFTU OnLine, 155/980630/DD, 30 June 1998

Brussels. June 30 1998 (ICFTU OnLine): Australia's reputation as a country which respects internationally recognised core labour standards has been sullied by the country's recent union-busting measures, said ICFTU General Secretary Bill Jordan, commenting on an ICFTU report, out today.

The situation climaxed with crude union-busting attempts on Australia's dock workers, where the government helped employers to hire and train soldiers to carry out stevedoring at the docks, and then sought to sack the entire workforce by entering the workplace late at night with security guards and dogs.

In a report published by the ICFTU to complement the World Trade Organisation's Trade Policy Review on Australia also published this week, the ICFTU is calling the WTO's attention to the government's failure to live up to the agreements it made to the WTO in Singapore in 1996, and in Geneva in 1998, to observe internationally recognised core labour standards.

Australia's industrial relations are regulated through federal and state laws, which until recently meant relatively comprehensive application of international labour standards on freedom of association (ILO Convention 87) and the right to organise (Convention 98). However, a strongly anti-union Federal Government in 1996 introduced enforceable individual contracts called Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs).

These new laws curb trade unions and restrict the right to strike, and are a clear contravention of ILO Convention 98. During the first year of these AWAs 14,000 were approved, and the Australian Council of Trade Unions has evidence that job offers are often dependent on job seekers signing these individual contracts.

The unions took the issue to the ILO. In March 1998 the Committee of Experts upheld their case, when it concluded that workers lacked protection from dismissal because of anti-union discrimination, and requested the Government to take necessary measures to change this. This June the ILO Conference Committee on the Application of Standards drew further attention to these criticisms.

Further questions have been raised with the Federal Government's involvement in a scheme in 1997/1998 to break the unions in the country's sea-ports. The ICFTU is calling the WTO's attention to the government plot with Patrick Stevedores which began to recruit replacement workers, some of whom were members of the Australian Defence Force, and send them for secret training in Dubai at the end of 1997.This scheme was scuppered after international trade union protests.

Patrick Stevedores then attempted, unsuccessfully, to sack their entire unionised labour force, pushing the workers out of their jobs, using attack dogs late at night. They then tried to use the UK courts to prevent international union sympathy action. This move was defeated but legal action continues in Australia.

The report also points to problems of increasing discrimination in Australian workplaces. Many women are paid less than men for doing similar work, and there is pronounced gender segmentation in the labour market. Aborigines are very strongly discriminated against: their earnings are only half those of the Australian average and Aboriginal unemployment is around six times the national average. Migrant workers, especially women, also continue to suffer discrimination at work.

The Australian Government should do more to tackle discrimination at work, especially when the ultra-conservative One Nation party are trying to turn back the clock on the improvements which have been made over the years, said ICFTU General Secretary Bill Jordan.

The report says that the Australian government should bring its legislation into line with international standards and make special efforts on discrimination. The report calls on the WTO to ensure that the Australian government keeps the promises it made to the WTO to respect core labour standards and that the International Labour Organisation should assist with this.