Geelong unionists present 'People's Demands' on all political parties

Geelong June 28 2006 Over the past 10 years the Howard Government has systematically destroyed our Conciliation and Arbitration system, and along with it, our awards, entitlements and rights in the workplace. We have allowed them to turn back the clock more than 150 years. Our rights as workers are back where they were in the early 1800’s - the only thing now missing is a Master-Servants Act. In this land of plenty, we should now be asking ourselves, is this kind of society we want to hand on to the next generation. All would now recognise that, sadly, there is little difference between the major political parties, - all seem intent on serving corporate global interests to the detriment of ordinary working Australians. It’s time for the Australian people to set a new agenda. Let’s claim back our rights. We suggest the following "Peoples Demands" as the minimum to start this process.

1. NATIONAL AWARDS TO BE ESTABLISHED FOR EVERY OCCUPATION

In Victoria we had State Awards from the 1880’s until the 1990’s, - when the Kennett Government opted out of the state system. We’ve had Federal Awards since 1904. Whilst the Award system was not a panacea for all, - it did establish basic pay and working conditions for all.

2. ABOLITION OF AUSTRALIAN WORKPLACE AGREEMENTS (AWA)

The imposition of individual employee contracts is abhorrent and unacceptable. To suggest that a 16-year-old can "bargain" their terms and conditions of employment with a multi-national or large corporation is absurd. As all who are on A.W.A.s know, such contracts are presented for their signature on a "take it or leave it" basis. Such a system can only result in longer working hours, less pay, - and less rights. Every Australian worker must have a right to basic "Award" pay and conditions. We note that Howard’s Government has retained the "Remuneration Tribunal", so that politicians will receive regular pay increases. No question here of the politicians entering into an AWA. with their employer - the Australian people. What hypocrites they are.

3. UNJUST & UNFAIR DISMISSAL PROVISIONS TO APPLY TO ALL

In Victoria, prior to 1996, a "Board of Reference" dealt with unjust & unfair dismissal cases. Cases were dealt with efficiently and quickly, - incurring no legal costs for either party. There is no valid reason why such boards cannot be re-established. Every employee, who is wrongfully dismissed, should have a right to such a process.

It should be a right of all.

4. RIGHT OF EMPLOYEES TO BE REPRESENTED IN THE WORKPLACE

For the past 10 years the Howard Government has been changing I.R. laws, - in order to restrict or exclude union officials from the workplace. No restrictions, of course, are placed on employers. Employers may seek advice or visits from employer organisations any time they wish. Under Howard workers have no such rights. The right to representation is a fundamental right and should be available to all employees. Union officials should have a "Right of Entry" to consult employees any time work is taking place.

5. ABOLITION OF HOWARD’S BUILDING INDUSTRY ‘GESTAPO’ (ABCC)

The existence of Howard’s building industry "Gestapo" - the ABCC is an offence to all. Under the intimidatory powers of the ABCC workers have less rights than accused criminals. That such a force exists in a country that boasts of its democracy and freedoms is deplorable.

It must be disbanded immediately.

6. THE RIGHT TO COLLECTIVELY BARGAIN INDUSTRY AGREEMENTS

For many years we had the right to collectively bargain "Industry Agreements" with large corporate employers. Such agreements provide the only way for employees of large corporations to receive a little of the immense wealth often generated by such corporations.

7. END THE EXPLOITATION OF GUEST WORKERS & REFUGEES

The federal government has relaxed the controls of 457 visas. This allows employers to bring in skilled and unskilled labour instead of recruiting workers from with in Australia. Guest workers have no ability to access welfare, Health or other services in Australia and are employed on lower pay and conditions. These workers are under continuous threat of deportation is they raise any safety or wage issues and are therefore placed in a situation that is open to exploitation. To address any skill shortages that may arise from time to time the Government and companies should properly fund public technical colleges and increase the number of apprentices employed. We demand that all persons working in Australia, must be entitled to, - and must be paid minium Award rates of pay.

8. IMMEDIATE INCREASE IN EMPLOYED TRAINING FOR OUR YOUNG

There are plenty of young people in Australia willing and able, to be trained for all our future needs, - if given the means and opportunity. Companies operating in Australia should be required to provide such training, - instead of shirking their responsibility, and always looking for the "cheap" way out.

9. INDEPENDENT INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES RESOLUTION COMMISSION

Such a Commission to be founded on the objectives of the original 1904 Conciliation and Arbitration Act - i.e.- To encourage the organisation of representative bodies of employers and employees (Unions). To encourage and provide means for, conciliation with a view to amicable agreement, thereby preventing and settling industrial disputes. Whilst again, not a panacea for all, it would provide for some semblance of ‘fairness’, and

A means of settling disputes, other than belting each other over the head.

10. PEOPLES DECLARATION

We declare that we will not vote for any political candidate, who does not commit totally, to supporting and implementing these fundamental and minimum - people's demands. [Passed by Geelong Trades Hall Council meeting 27th June 2006 and endorsed by the mass rally in Geelong on 28th June - see picture.]