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CWU ballot: ALP and union claims wrong

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John Ho

w ard NEWS RELEASE Member for BennelongShadow Minister for Industrial Relations & Manager of Opposition Business in the House IR 028/94


Many of the things said by government and union spokesmen yesterday about the Liberal Team in the Communication Workers Union ballot are blatantly wrong.

I was well aware that Mr Quentin Cook had previously been a candidate for union office and the political complexion of his previous running mates.

I am satisfied that Mr Cook is a bona fide member and supporter of the Liberal Party.

Claims that I have endorsed left candidates are, of course, absurd. The only people I have endorsed are Messers Cook, Bridge and Watt for federal executive positions within the CWU.

The claim by Assistant Industrial Relations Minister, Mr Gary Johns, that there is a golden rule that political parties don't involve themselves in union ballots is demonstrably false.

The Australian Labor Party and unions are integrally linked. Most unions are affiliated to the ALP.

ALP secretariats often assist in the preparation of union election material.

Only three years ago both Mr Hawke, then Labor Prime Minister, and I, publicly endorsed the proposed amalgamation of the Federated Iron Workers Association and the Australasian Society of Engineers to form a new union, FIMEE.

That amalgamation proposal was then the subject of a ballot of all members of both unions.

Therefore, Mr Hawke and I had directly involved ourselves in union affairs. There could barely be a clearer example of how wrong the claim made by Mr Johns yesterday was.


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I don't recall any complaints at the time about what the former Prime Minister and I had done.

I understand the Minister for Administrative Services is reviewing the guidelines regarding MP's postal allowances.

I have complied in every respect with the guidelines laid down for the use of my postal allowance. Before writing to members of the Communication Workers Union in NSW, I provided a copy of my letter to the Department of Administrative Services. It was cleared by the Department as being within the guidelines. I also informed the relevant officer that a union ballot was to be conducted.

My letter is attached, from which it will be seen that I did not canvass support for particular candidates, but merely explained policy. Canvassing for such support would have been a breach of the guidelines.

Some union bosses and labor ministers are clearly irked by the determination of Liberally-minded trade unionists to standup and be counted. That is why they have responded in such a hysterical fashion.



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28 June 1994

Dear Union Member

Liberal Industrial Relations Policy

I am writing to you as a member of a trade union not only to explain the major elements of the Liberal Party's industrial relations policy, but also to rebutt the false criticism of that policy by the ALP and certain trade union leaders.

The goal of our policy is higher real wages for employees flowing from higher workplace productivity.

Despite all the ALP and ACTU noise to the contrary, Australia's productivity performance remains poor by world standards. As a result, real wage levels have either stagnated or fallen. This has affected your living standard.

Mr Keating keeps claiming to be on the side of the worker yet under his Government the rich have got richer, the poor poorer and Australia's overseas debt has risen from $23 billion in 1983 to $180 billion in 1993.

The ALP and certain trade union leaders continue to wrongly claim that the Liberal industrial relations policy is against the interests of workers and designed totally to assist employers.

Our policy is not anti-trade union. There is nothing in the policy which denies or in any way limits the right of workers anywhere in Australia to organise themselves into unions and have those unions fully represent them in any negotiations about working conditions if that is their wish.

The claim frequently made by Paul Keating, Martin Ferguson and Bill Kelly that individual workers would be forced, under Liberal policy, to negotiate on their own with their employer is utterly false.

It is all a matter of choice. If workers want to be represented by unions they can be. If they want to go it alone or form a small bargaining unit at the workplace then that can happen. If they want someone other than a union official, delegate or workmate to represent them in pay negotiations then they can do that also.

SYDNEY OFFICE: GPO Box 36, Sydne y NSW 2001 TEL: (02) 251 8911 FAX: (02) 251 4800


The Liberal Party's approach is to give both employers and employees complete

freedom to choose between continued coverage under the award system or a separate workplace contract.

Our policy retains the Industrial Relations Commission for those sections of the workforce which continue to be covered by awards. No worker can lose any of his or her existing award conditions without consent.

If a workplace contract is chosen, then that contract must always comply with certain minimum conditipns which cannot in any circumstances be varied downwards.

These conditions rnclude: - an hourly rate of pay, taken from the relevant award; —four weeks' annual leave; - tWO weeks' sick %aye; - twelve months' unpaid maternity leave.

An Office of the Employee Advocate will be established to protect employees who are unfairly treated under workplace contracts. This means that claims for unpaid monies, wrongful dismissal, etc., can be pursued without expense to the employee if a proper case exists.

The policy guarantees freedom of association. This means that workers cannot be forced to join unions. Equally, it means that if workers do join unions they cannot be victimised on account of their union membership.

Under Liberal policy, employees who want to join a union will be given the choice of

joining a craft union, an industry union or a workplace union. At present, the law prevents workplace unions being formed.

There will also be tax benefits for employees who own shares in the company which employs them. The Liberal Party's industrial relations policy is balanced and fair to both employers and employees. Its implementation will strengthen the Australian economy to the benefit of

all Australians.

Yours faithfully

John Howard