Australian law must comply with the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions. The ILO states that the right to withdraw labour or to strike underpins our other rights. The ILO has condemned Australian industrial law for placing limits on the right to strike.
The ILO states that: 'The right to strike is one of the essential means available to.....seeking solutions to economic and social policy questions and to labour problems of any kind which are of direct concern to workers.' In these times of big national decisions around economic and ecological sustainability, the vast majority, the working people and their representative unions, must have equal legal rights as outlined within ILO Conventions.
If they had the right to strike Australian unionists organised in solidarity with each other and their communities would never have allowed the mass privatisations, the introduction of casualisation and the off-shoring of our wealth creating jobs to have occurred.
It is important that Australians are equal before the law. When employers use a secondary workforce (scabs), or where they hire goons such as on the Desalination Plant in Victoria), they are using second parties to achieve an industrial outcome; likewise when unionists shut down companies in solidarity with other unionists, they are using second parties to achieve an industrial outcome. One is legal, the other is not. Australians must be equal before the law.
The ILO Conventions guarantee the right of entry to unions and state that the right to enter is equally important as the right to withdraw labour from a workplace.
The ILO states, that the right to strike underpins the will of the people. It protects all other human rights. Only unions with the freedom to act in exactly the same way as employers are free to act, can address the crisis in our democracy brought about by the “Free” trade Agreements and undemocratic laws.
It is not “flexible” where, for instance, people are driven by fear of unemployment to sign onto a sham sub-contracting scheme where thousands of workers receive exactly the same contract (effectively a pattern agreement, something made illegal for unions to negotiate) and told that if they do not sign there will be no work. If any of those subcontractors wish to negotiate a better arrangement they risk not receiving work when it is allocated. On the one hand the “level playing field” in a deregulated market gives employers the right to employ workers as casual, individual contract, sham subcontract and as part of non-union “collective” agreements. On the other hand the so called level playing field penalises workers with a highly regulated market for their unions, which criminalises many once-legal union activities.
The right to strike regulates the market in the interests of the majority.
Currently Australian law prevents unions from bargaining around many issues which are of importance to their members, whereas the ILO Conventions guarantee the right of unions to negotiate agreements which contain whatever their members deem to be in their interests.
It will never be just that employers and governments organise a market free to regulate itself, but then sup-port legislation making workers unfree to regulate their own affairs.