No need for new IR laws, but ABCC must go: ACTU

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No need for new IR laws, but ABCC must go: ACTU

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence has denied the trade union movement is seeking a further re-write of Australia’s IR laws, but says unions will not back away from their fight to have the ABCC abolished.

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ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence has denied the trade union movement is seeking a further re-write of Australia’s IR laws, but says unions will not back away from their fight to have the ABCC abolished.
 
In a column in today’s Australian newspaper, Lawrence said the suggestion that the ACTU Congress last week claimed there was a need for a further comprehensive rewrite of Australia's industrial laws is ‘simply false’.
 
‘The only relevant party in the debate on industrial relations that has failed to rule out another wholesale rewrite of industrial relations laws is [Opposition Leader] Malcolm Turnbull,’ Lawrence said.
 
Clear danger to working people’
 
‘The continued strong support for WorkChoices within the Coalition poses a clear danger to the rights of working people, and is the only possible source of uncertainty about Australia's IR framework.’
 
However Lawrence said there is one area where the ACTU believes that the unfairness of John Howard's IR regime still exists ‘and that is in the existence of the ABCC’.
 
‘We are totally opposed to laws that treat one set of workers differently from all others and believe that these laws are unfair and have no place in a modern, national industrial relations framework,’ he said.
 
‘The argument has been put that these laws are needed to stop inappropriate or unlawful behaviour.
 
‘The union movement is absolutely opposed to any form of intimidation or bullying by any side in an industrial dispute.
 
Criminal law deals with thuggish behaviour
 
‘The isolated examples of inappropriate or unlawful behaviour, in the construction industry or elsewhere, should be and indeed are dealt with by the ordinary criminal law to which all Australians are subject.’
 
Lawrence said the most recent use of the ABCC’s coercive laws is against an ‘ordinary worker who attended a union meeting to discuss safety matters at the workplace and is now threatened with jail’.
 
‘Examples such as this clearly demonstrate the absurdity of the present arrangements and explain the union movement's united position that they should be repealed,’ he said.
 
‘While disagreeing with the government strongly on this matter the ACTU also acknowledges that the passage of the Fair Work Act is a landmark labour reform and a victory for unions and working people.
 
‘The restoration of rights at work is a critical part of Australia's response to the global economic crisis.
 
‘One of the reasons union members worked so hard to repeal WorkChoices is precisely because we understand from experience the connection between fair workplace laws and job security, skills development and productivity.’
 
Lawrence said the union movement is looking forward to the introduction of the Fair Work laws on 1 July.
 
Real strength
 
‘Once again, workers will be able to join together to collectively bargain with real strength and capacity, and in an environment where individual contracts cannot be used to undermine important conditions,’ he said.
 
‘We also look forward to continuing to put our view to government, on behalf of our members, for policies that improve the lives of working families across Australia.’
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