Leave agreements alone, global unions warn

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) have criticised train operator Aurizon after it asked Australia’s industrial relations tribunal, the Fair Work Commission, to overturn 14 negotiated Enterprise Agreements, covering over 5,000 railway workers in Queensland.

Aurizon, whose CEO Lance Hockridge is among the best paid executives in Australia, has applied to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to terminate the agreements in a bid to strong-arm workers in negotiations. Aurizon put their inferior wage cutting deals to the workforce ahead of the case, but people in two of the three agreements roundly rejected the offer and in the third agreement the FWC is currently considering voting irregularities that cast a cloud over the result.

The Commission can terminate agreements when they reach expiry on application from one of the parties. However, unions believe that using the FWC to disrupt industrial relations in this way contravenes all principles of justice. It also threatens decent working conditions and workers’ rights.

“This case is an attack on Australia’s well-established enterprise bargaining system on wages and conditions and is an attempt to force workers onto minimum pay and conditions,” said ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow, adding: "It could set a dangerous precedent, undermining the integrity of the Australia's entire enterprise bargaining system.”

“Unions in Australia and globally are staunchly opposed to such attacks on the fundamental rights of workers and will be joining the RTBU’s public campaign as a result,” stated ITF president Paddy Crumlin, of the Maritime Union of Australia.

ENDS

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