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2015-04-10

On Strike

BHP wants new limits on industrial action

Australian employers are continuing to present their wish lists to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into workplace laws.

And a predictable lot of wishes they are!

BHP’s submission to the inquiry offers the most recent insight into the thinking of the big end of town. It includes proposals for further restrictions on the ability of workers to take effective industrial action. It also calls for new limits on the content of workplace agreements and on unions’ ability to represent their members.

According to BHP: 

  • Protected industrial action should not include selective work bans. The only legal industrial action (already restricted to action during bargaining) should be an all-out strike or employer lock-out.
  • Unions should not be able to give notification of proposed action and then not go ahead with it.  This, says BHP, causes great inconvenience to the employer!

So, all or nothing!

At a time when unions are arguing for a greater role for the Fair Work Commission in resolving bargaining disputes such as the one that led to the Qantas lock-out, BHP wants to bring on WWIII – which it presumably thinks it will win.

BHP also wants: 

  • Restrictions on agreement content that affects “operational” decisions. The example given is “last on, first off” redundancy policies.
  • Further restrictions on unions’ right of entry into workplaces.
  • Restrictions on unions’ rights to represent members in bargaining, particularly where levels of unionisation are low.

There is little doubt that these proposals will strike a chord with the Abbott government. But If they are adopted as government policy, the 2016 federal election will show how popular they are going to be with working people.

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