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Fair Trade (Workers’ Rights) Bill 2013

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 2010-2011-2012-2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SENATE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fair Trade (Workers’ Rights) Bill 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of Senator John Madigan, DLP Senator for Victoria)



Fair Trade (Workers Rights) Bill 2013

 

 

OUTLINE

The Fair Trade (Workers Rights) Bill 2013 is a Bill which seeks to promote international labour standards and human rights. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) speaks about labour standards as being about “the development of people as human beings”.  Often, International labour standards are seen as stunting or costing business the opportunity to grow and prosper. However, the ILO has made it clear that improved Labour Standards often leads to greater productivity and economic performance, which is a benefit for both workers and employers.

 

This Bill has been written in the spirit of recognising the basic ILO principle that “fair labour practices set out in international labour standards and applied through a national legal system ensure an efficient and stable labour market for workers and employers alike.”

 

The Bill does not seek to impede international trade; rather it seeks to ensure that those countries that wish to benefit from entering into a trade agreement with Australia include minimum standards about workers’ rights in their domestic law.

 

Not only does the Bill promote international labour standards with our trading partners, it also increases Australian business competitiveness by creating a more level playing field. The Bill does this by ensuring that minimum standards are included in the domestic law of countries which we negotiate trade agreements with. These standards include: freedom of association, the right to organise and collective bargain, freedom from discrimination, the elimination of the worst forms of child labour, the forty hour week, occupational health and safety standards, a minimum wage and the conventions promoting weekly rest. These are basic international standards that should be respected by all employers in all countries.

 

Australian employers fulfil and exceed the expectations of international labour standards in countless conventions and covenants. Our employers pay superannuation, provide compulsory workers compensation insurance, provide a safe workplace, a decent basic wage and have thrust upon them a number of other expenses which make Australian workplaces a great places to work. However, our workers are competing with those who aren’t afforded a fraction of the conditions our workers are. By allowing this situation to continue, we are not standing in solidarity with overseas workers, and we are negligently allowing man-made employment and humanitarian atrocities to occur, whilst we take no responsibility and take no pro-active steps to challenge international conditions for all those who are engaged in the global division of labour.

 

 



 

FINANCIAL IMPACT STATEMENT

The Bill has no foreseeable negative financial impact.

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

Part 1

Clause 1: Short title

This clause provides that the Bill when passed may be cited as the Fair Trade (Workers’ Rights) Act 2013.

Clause 2: Commencement

This clause provides that the Bill will commence on the day it receives Royal Assent.

Clause 3: Object

This clause provides that the purpose of the Act is to encourage Australia’s trading partners to ensure that workers in their country are protected by certain internationally accepted minimum standards about workers’ rights.

Clause 4: Definitions

This clause outlines where the various definitions of phrases can be found in the Bill.

 

Part 2

Clause 5: Trade Agreements and domestic law of parties must include minimum standards about workers’ rights

This clause outlines how and in what instances the Commonwealth must, through the Minister, include minimum standards about workers rights in a trade agreement.

Clause 6: Minimum wage fixing recommendation

This clause outlines the objective of including the ILO’s Minimum Wage recommendation as a requirement in Australia’s Trade Agreements. It states that the other country or countries must include standards in their domestic law that are at least equal to the standards in the minimum wage fixing recommendation or provide a written explanation to the Parliament why an exemption has been made.

Clause 7: Meaning of Trade Agreement

This clause outlines the definition of a Trade Agreement as being “an international agreement that the Commonwealth has, or will, enter into with the government of another country, or with the governments of a group of countries, that will abolish or decrease tariffs (or other import charges) that are levied or charged by Australia at the time goods are imported into Australia.” It also explains the different ways that Australia can enter into a trade agreement with another country.

Clause 8: Meaning of minimum standards about workers’ rights

This clause outlines the eight ILO Conventions which are used as a benchmark to determine what the minimum standards of workers’ rights are.



 

STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

Fair Trade (Workers’ Rights) Bill 2013

This Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

Overview of the Bill

This Bill seeks to encourage Australia’s trading partners to ensure that workers in their country are protected by certain internationally accepted minimum standards about workers’ rights.

Human rights implications

The Bill engages all human rights conventions mentioned in the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 by promoting the enforcement of human rights conveyed in the similar International Labor Conventions:

 

(a)                         the Convention concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise done at San Francisco on 9 July 1948;

See below.

(b)                        the Convention concerning the Application of the Principles of the Right to Organise and to Bargain Collectively done at Geneva on 1 July 1949;

 

These two conventions directly correlate with Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”

 

(c)                         the Convention concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation done at Geneva on 25 June 1958;

 

This convention asserts Article 11 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women which asserts that: “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, the same rights...”

 

(d)                        the Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour done at Geneva on 17 June 1999;

 

This convention supports the Convention on the Rights of the Child which is listed in the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 , particularly Article 32 which reads: “ States Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education, or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.”

 

(e)                     the Convention concerning the Reduction of Hours of Work to Forty a Week done at Geneva on 22 June 1935;

 

This convention engages Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which states that: “...the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work which ensure... rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public holidays.”

 

(f)                     the Convention concerning Occupational Safety and Health and the Working Environment done at Geneva on 22 June 1981;

 

This convention engages Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which calls upon Governments to ensure safe and healthy work conditions.

 

(g)                    the Convention concerning the Application of the Weekly Rest in Industrial Undertakings done at Geneva on 18 November 1921;

See below.

(h)                    the Convention concerning Weekly Rest in Commerce and Offices done at Geneva on 26 June 1957.

 

These conventions engage Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which calls upon the government to ensure there is adequate rest and leisure time for workers.

 

Conclusion

 

The Bill is therefore compatible with Human Rights, as it doesn’t remove any, but rather it promotes them.