Labor Open To Union Demands, Rejects Strike Call

Federal Labor will consider making it easier for unions to legally enter workplaces along with more union appointments to the Fair Work Commission. Though they have ­rejected the call by construction union official John Setka to lift ­restrictions on strike action.

Mr Setka, the CFMMEU’s Victorian secretary, has called on opposition leader Bill Shorten to make it easier for workers to take strike action and to relax union right-of-entry laws, claiming Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard were “probably the worst Labor prime ministers” in Australia’s history.

Opposition workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor said Labor would ­examine proposals to change the right-of-entry laws.

“I think we need to look at that,’’ he told the ABC. “It’s not about access for union officials to worksites alone. It’s about access for workers to be represented in their workplace. We know that the density of unionisation has shrunk in this country. We know that wage theft is in epidemic proportions.

“One of the reasons for that, I think, is there has been a lack of oversight that has gone on in many workplaces. Having said that, we have to make sure we get the balance right when it comes to people entering workplaces.”

It was revealed this week that a federal Labor government would seek to redress a percieved “imbalance” caused by not one of the 14 commission appointments made by the Abbott and Turnbull governments being from a union background.

“It may well be people from unions, it may be lawyers who’ve represented workers,’’ Mr O’Connor said. “It has to be a balanced commission and at the ­moment it’s highly distorted.”

Mr Setka’s calls for restrictions to be lifted on strike action, and his criticism of the Rudd and Gillard governments were rejected by Mr O’Connor.

Mr Setka said Labor should commit to removing conditions attached to legal industrial action, including protected action ballots of workers and notice periods.

“There are a range of things we would not agree with some union officials when they’ve raised with us the need for unlimited strike action,’’ Mr O’Connor said. “Certainly federal Labor would not be supporting situations where there is unlimited strike action without notice. That is not acceptable.”

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