Union Songs

Union Values and Beliefs

(extract from Greg Combet's National Press Club speech 13 September, 2006)
(download speech)

The ACTU's opposition to the IR laws is not confined to the specific elements of the WorkChoices legislation.

Our opposition is more fundamental. We have different values, different beliefs, and a more positive vision for industrial relations, the economy and Australian society.

Unions don't want Australia to go down the US road. We don't want widening inequality and social dysfunction. We are opposed to the entrenchment of even more wealth and power at the top, and the increased alienation of working people from the decisions which affect their work and livelihoods.

We are fighting for a fairer and more just society, one where the benefits of economic prosperity are more fairly shared.

We are fighting to ensure that people have reasonable rights to mitigate the abuse of power by big business.

We are fighting for democratic rights and principles – to improve the quality of our democracy and society.

We believe that economic prosperity can be achieved in harmony with decent employment rights and the observance of democratic principles.

We do not accept that economic competitiveness can only be achieved at the expense of people's rights at work.

And this gets to the heart of the debate about the Government's approach to industrial relations. If the Government had the decency, honesty and courage to argue its case it would assert that the employment rights it has abolished are not economically sustainable - because that is effectively what it is saying.

It would assert that business must be awarded the freedom to adjust to competitive pressure unencumbered by union organisation, collective bargaining, obligations to deal fairly with employees, or by minimum pay and employment conditions established by independent institutions.

Effectively the Government is saying we cannot afford these things in our economy and they have to go. By allowing business to take penalty rates off cleaners and shop assistants the Prime Minister seems to believe that we are on the way to developing a truly productive and internationally competitive economy.

That is an insipid vision for Australia and its people.

It is a vision we reject. Australian people know it is garbage.

The laws are bad policy and they will hurt people.


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