Union busting bill damages workers’ freedom of association

Union busting bill damages workers’ freedom of association

The Morrison Government’s plan to impose drastic new regulations on unions is unnecessary, unreasonable and will undermine workers’ ability to stand together, the Human Rights Law Centre told a parliamentary committee today.

The Human Rights Law Centre recommended that the Senate reject the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019.

Emily Howie, a Legal Director at the HRLC, said the proposed law gives any employer and government Ministers overreaching powers to interfere in union leadership and hinder democratic decision making by members.

“The laws would introduce sweeping and unreasonable powers for the Government and even employers to interfere in union activities, like disqualifying union officials or deregistering unions for even the most minor of things - like lodging paperwork late. The laws are overkill and should not be passed,” said Ms Howie.

The Government’s plan to impose more regulation on trade unions will interfere with Australians’ right of freedom of association, which includes the right to form and join trade unions.

“At a time when wage theft is making headlines and wage growth is at record lows, it’s clear that Australians need trade unions to level the power difference that exists between working people and their employers. Good politicians would be strengthening workers’ rights to stand together. Instead this law seems to be primarily aimed at hampering the ability of working people to collectively organise and bargain through their union,” said Ms Howie.

The proposed law would also give Ministers and employers the ability to bring court proceedings that interfere in the functioning and existence of unions by giving them broader powers to cancel a union’s registration, place a union into administration or prevent amalgamations of unions even where members have voted to merge.

“Laws like these would be unprecedented in democracies around the world. It must be union members who democratically decide who will represent them. Whatever your politics or whether you're a member of a union or not, freedom of association and the right to join a union, is a fundamental human right and something that we should defend. These laws are all about limiting that very freedom,” said Ms Howie.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s submission to the Committee can be found here.

A copy of the Human Rights Law Centre’s prepared statement for the Committee can be found here.

Media contact:

Tom Clarke, HRLC Campaigns Director, on tom.clarke@hrlc.org.au or 0422 545 763