Australian unions to oppose plans to reform work rights

Unions in Australia are to hold a national week of action in June in protest at the federal government’s planned industrial relations changes.

The week of action, which is expected to see hundreds of thousands of workers taking part in rallies and marches, is the first stage of a campaign to oppose the proposed reforms.

A meeting of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (Actu) agreed that the priority was to oppose changes to the system, which include plans to alter basic employment rights, water down unfair dismissal laws, promote individual contracts instead of collective bargaining, and change the way the minimum wage is set.

Actu president, Sharan Burrow, said the week of action was scheduled to coincide with the federal government taking control of the senate on 1 July.

Unions have proposed levying members to establish a fighting fund for a three-year campaign up to the next election, encouraging workers to vote at the ballot box. “It is the Australian people who can say to the government this is not what we think makes for a fairer Australia,” said Burrow.

The government has questioned the effectiveness of any campaign. Kevin Andrews, minister for employment and workplace relations, said: “This is yet another predictable and inaccurate campaign by the Actu. This is no different to the inaccurate campaigns waged against the original Workplace Relations Act back in 1996.”

Business groups are questioning the effectiveness of the union campaign, arguing that it was illogical to protest before details of planned legislation were known.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said any strike action would be unjustified and counter-productive.

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