VTHC to call on Vic Govt to take back IR powers

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VTHC to call on Vic Govt to take back IR powers

The Victorian Trades Hall Councill (VTHC) will call on the Victorian Government to take back the industrial relations powers ceded to the Federal Government in 2003 if Prime Minister John Howard launches an attack on workers' wages and conditions. The Victorian Trades Hall Councill (VTHC) will call on the Victorian Government to take back the industrial relations powers ceded to the Federal Government in 2003 if Prime Minister John Howard launches an attack on workers' wages and conditions.

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The Victorian Trades Hall Councill (VTHC) will call on the Victorian Government to take back the industrial relations powers ceded to the Federal Government in 2003 if Prime Minister John Howard launches an attack on workers' wages and conditions. 

VTHC Secretary Leigh Hubbard said this action would be taken ‘if Federal awards are stripped back to a minimum hourly rate and a few conditions, as proposed by employer groups’.  

Hubbard said Victorian workers are in a particularly vulnerable position as 1.9 million Victorians rely on the Federal system to set their minimum standards. 

State-wide strategy

The Executive of the Victorian Trades Hall Council has also endorsed a Victoria-wide strategy in the face of upcoming attacks on workers by the Howard Government.   

‘We are confident that workers and their families will stand by each other, and their unions, and not allow this Federal Government to undermine the achievements of generations of Australians,’ Hubbard said. 

The Executive, which comprises 30 leaders of Victorian unions, resolved to pursue a four-pronged strategy in defending workers from the onslaught of anti-worker legislation coming out of Canberra. 

The strategy will involve:

  • A public and community campaign alerting Australian workers to what is at stake and how their job security is threatened by the proposed changes;

  • An industrial strategy involving workers in workplaces coming to an agreement with their employers on wages and conditions that will continue Australia’s economic prosperity;

  • A legislative strategy that challenges the Federal Government’s right to override the highly productive state IR systems and hold them to International Labour Organisation standards Australia is signatory to; and

  • A membership education program that will strengthen workers voices and provide a sense of community and equality that the Howard Government’s David vs. Goliath approach is aiming to destroy.

‘For the Treasurer to make lowering wages and conditions of working Australians the key to keeping interest rates low is deceptive and absurd,’ Hubbard said.

‘The skill shortage we now face is a much more significant issue and is a direct result of the Howard Government’s failed New Apprenticeships scheme.

‘Unions have been raising alarm bells on skill shortages for years but our call for investment in training and education has fallen on deaf ears.

 ‘People might be desperate to keep interest rates low, but they will not be fooled into thinking that lowering their pay or health and safety standards in workplaces will keep them safe from the swings and roundabouts of the economy.’

Role of unions

The VTHC has also called on the ACTU and affiliates to raise a substantial amount of money for the campaign.  

‘If anyone thinks that unions are somehow passé, they need not look any further than James Hardie,’ Hubbard said. 

‘Unions were the ones who fought from day one for justice for asbestos victims. Had it not been for unions, neither the Federal government nor the company would have been compelled to do anything’. 

Over the next few months, unions will be focusing on issue that are important to their members, including work/life balance, the working poor, lack of training opportunities for youth, the exploitative use of foreign guest workers and many others, Hubbard said. 

‘The union movement has been around for a long time. Whatever challenges we face in coming to terms with the changing nature of work and the labour market, there will always be a need for a collective voice that stands up for justice and a fair go,’ he said.  

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