November 27, 2006 07:21 ET

UK trade unionists pledge solidarity with Australian workers

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 27, 2006) - Hundreds of UK trade unionists are to protest outside the Australian Embassy this week (Thursday 30th November) at anti-worker and anti-trade union labour laws introduced by the Australian government.

Nearly a year after the introduction of some of the most draconian employment legislation ever seen in the industrialised world, UK trade union members are to protest outside the Australian Embassy on the Aldwych. Amicus' General Secretary is also writing to Australian Prime Minister, John Howard and Amicus' activists will write to their Australian counterparts to pledge their solidarity and support.

Since the re-election of the Howard government in 2005, successive basic protections have been attacked, including the minimum wage, the right to four weeks annual leave, parental leave rights, unfair dismissal protection and the standard working week.

It has also allowed employers to put workers onto individual contracts which has slashed workers pay and reduce employment conditions to the barest minimum standards. Those workers who refuse to sign fear being sacked with little or no redress left to claim unfair dismissal. This is a direct attack on trade unions and their ability to represent workers and to protect the poorest paid.

Amicus trade union say that the Australian experience should serve as a warning to anyone considering voting Conservative in the UK elections.

Amicus' General Secretary, Derek Simpson, said: "The extraordinary attack that the Australian government has made on workers has had a devastating impact on peoples pay, working conditions, their job security and their family life.

"We're protesting to demonstrate our solidarity with Australian workers and trade unions but also to say that anyone in the UK that is under the illusion that a Tory government would not do the same here, need to think again.

"David Cameron has already said he intends to do away with the European Social Chapter that provides UK workers with so many of their basic human and employment rights including the right to consultation with their employers, the right to protection in cases of dismissal and the right to strike. These are the very rights that the Australian legislation removes or restricts."

Amicus has also pointed to the fact that two key advisers to the Australian government, Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor, were recruited by the Conservative Party to advise them in the 2005 UK General Election campaign.

Photo and interview opportunity
Amicus members will be protesting outside Australia House, Strand, London WC2B 4LA from 9.30am on Thursday 30th November. Members will be carrying placards and boomerangs with slogans demanding workers rights back.


Notes to editors

Examples of the new Australian legislation in practice:

Public sector
March 2006: The Australian Valuation Office

- Workers at AVO (the Australian Valuation Office) had their salaries cut from AUS$97,951 to AUS$80,000 after the imposition of AWAs
- 91 out of the 105 strong workforce has signed a petition requesting the right to be covered by a union collective agreement
- Management refused to negotiate with the CPSU (Community and Public Sector Union)
- The AVO staff's new contracts also removed entitlements to overtime payments, higher duties allowance, flexitime and personal leave

Manufacturing Workers
September 2006: Heinemann Electric, Melbourne (electrical parts manufacturer)

- Heinemann Electric refused to pay workers a week's completed work because the workers have banned extra overtime
- The overtime ban is being used by the 56 workers, members of the Electrical Trades Union, to secure their entitlements under a new collective agreement
- HE has been advised by the government's own lawyers that the IR laws enable them to withhold a week's wages from their workers
- John Howard supported the actions of Heinemann Electric and portrayed the overtime ban as a strike and the weekly wages of workers as 'strike pay'
- The 2006 Work Choices legislation require workers to be docked a minimum of four hours pay for any industrial action

Construction workers
August 2006: The Perth to Mandurah rail project

- 107 Western Australian construction workers sued by Howard Government for thousands of dollars in fines for allegedly taking industrial action in support of a sacked work colleague appear before the Federal Court
- The ABCC (Australian Building and Construction Commission) claimed that these workers took part in 'unlawful industrial action' and breached an order of the Industrial Relations Commission
- The ABCC has asked the court to make orders against the workers declaring their action unlawful, impose fines (up to AUS$28,600 is both breaches were proved) and order that they pay the Federal Government's costs of the court action

September 2006: Radio Rentals, Adelaide

- Radio Rentals technicians have been locked out for a month in order to starve them into accepting pay cutting AWA contracts
- The employer broke off negotiations with staff and made three union representatives redundant, including one with 17 years on the job
- As there are less than 100 workers at the site unfair dismissal laws do not apply
- The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) has launched a legal challenge to the sackings but the Industrial elations Commission no longer has powers to hear it
- The technicians won a ballot for the right to take industrial action to support their claim
- Workers voted to hold a four hour weekly stoppage. In response Radio rentals locked them out without pay for a month.

Contact Information

  • Amicus
    Monica Dos Santos
    07798 531020
    Amicus press office
    Ashraf Choudhury
    020 7420 8914 or 07980 224761