The AMWU submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Fair Work Bill emphasised the need for the new laws to completely restore the democratic rights of working people in Australia.
After the union’s written submission, AMWU National Secretary Dave Oliver, and NSW organiser Lily Yin also gave evidence before the inquiry, in Canberra last Thursday.
Ms Yin spoke of her experiences as a former employee at Cochlear where workers have been battling with management for two years for the right to bargain collectively for a union agreement.
Mr Oliver said the new laws should not limit bargaining to issues legally defined as ‘matters pertaining to the employment relationship’.
“We are of the view that employers and workers should be free to decide whatever matters they choose to include in an agreement.”
Mr Oliver also defended pattern bargaining, pointing out that Australia’s fundamental working conditions could only have been won by pattern bargaining at the industry level.
“The AMWU has been a leading advocate for the fundamental rights that were won at industry level. Annual leave, a 38 hour week, superannuation, long service leave, to name only a few, were won through pattern bargaining.”
The AMWU submission also urged for further powers to be given to Fair Work Australia so that they can settle disputes and intervene when parties are not bargaining in good faith.
Mr Oliver cited the example of Cochlear as a company who has consistently refused to engage in negotiations with its workers for a union collective agreement and the lack of legislation to support the workers.
“The Cochlear workers’ experience is one of the clearest cases for ensuring workers have access to union representation and also have access to an independent umpire to arbitrate a fair outcome in a situation where management refuses to negotiate. “
Ms Lily Yin reiterated the need for better laws to ensure good faith bargaining.
“It is because of the hard work of the employees that business is booming for this company, but the company has no respect for its staff. They tell the workers what they want, but they never listen to what the workers want.”
The AMWU representatives were questioned extensively about issues regarding health and safety and right of entry.
Ms Yin said it was made very difficult for workers to see and talk to union officials.
Mr Oliver also called for the new laws to reflect the mandate given to the Rudd Government to dismantle WorkChoices and to fully restore people’s rights at work.
“This is clearly what people voted for and this is clearly what they want.”