The Steering Committee of Workers Uniting, the global union created by Unite and the United Steelworkers, today issued the following statement:
On 25 October 2017, Australian Federal Police conducted a raid on the offices of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU).
The raids were initiated by the government’s “Registered Organisation Commission”, a supposedly neutral regulator of unions and employer organisations, created six months ago. Media outlets were given advance warning of the raids, presumably by the government, to maximise publicity.
The raids are apparently about allegations that the union gave financial support to a progressive community group ‘Get Up’ along with political candidates more than a decade ago.
The raids on the AWU are part of a pattern of police attacks on Australian unions. The head of another anti-union government body, the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), was forced to resign last month after misrepresenting labour laws in briefings to employers and ordered to pay a fine to the CFMEU union. The deputy head of the ABCC resigned, just weeks after his appointment in August, to disassociate himself from the conduct of the commission’s head.
One of the more notorious acts of the ABCC was to threaten to ban construction companies that allowed union flags to fly on building sites from access to government contracts. Unions have criticised the ABCC as having a “disastrous impact” on safety in the industry.
Workers Uniting calls on the Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and his government to cease his intimidation of democratic trade unions. We stand ready to support our Australian sisters and brothers in defence of their rights as workers and citizens to organise and to participate in political activities.
We note that Chapter 18 of the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement requires Australia to uphold international labour standards including freedom of association. We also note that the European Union is commencing negotiation of a trade agreement with Australia and that the UK Government has expressed interest in negotiating a trade agreement following Brexit. Should the Australian government continue its assault on workers’ rights, we are prepared to demand that our governments take action to sanction the Turnbull government for its actions.