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Kiwi workers backing their Aussie mates today

MEDIA RELEASE

15 November 2005


Kiwi workers backing their Aussie mates today

"The Howard government's cynically named WorkChoices legislation is nothing about choice," said Ross Wilson, President of the Council of Trade Unions. "The proposals will allow employers in worksites with less than 100 employees to fire people for no reason, to force workers onto individual contracts even if a majority want a collective, and are a thinly veiled attempt to silence the rights of workers to organise collectively in unions."

Kiwi workers are backing their mates in Australia today in opposing the draconian industrial relations legislation being pushed onto Australian communities by the Howard government. Rallies in Auckland and Wellington at 4.30pm today will deliver a message to the Australian government highlighting New Zealand opposition to the changes.

"This sort of approach to workplace relations is what New Zealand narrowly avoided in the form of a Don Brash led government. New Zealand unions will be organising politically and campaigning over the next three years to ensure we never return to this form of workplace relations here," said Ross Wilson.

"We are urging the Australian government to learn from our experience, to set aside ideology, and to abandon this industrial relations legislation package in favour of a modern legislative model which will create the high value, high productivity economy we need in Australasia," said Ross Wilson.

The Council of Trade Unions has sent an open letter to Australian workers across to Australia for today's community protest, which is attached.

ENDS

15 November 2005

Open letter to Australian Workers

To our Aussie mates,


We are writing this letter on behalf of the more than 300,000 workers affiliated to the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions to pledge our solidarity with you in your fight against the draconian industrial relations legislation currently in the Australian Parliament.

We are aware that today is your Australian National Day of Community Protest, and that hundreds of thousands of workers in all parts of Australia will be protesting against the cynically named WorkChoices legislation which will strip away your right to a fair go at work, by driving down wages, exposing worksites with less than 100 employees to dismissal at will by employers, and stripping out your existing pay and conditions.

We also experienced a similar political and industrial attack on our pay and conditions of employment, and our guaranteed human rights as workers, with the Employment Contracts Act during the 1990s in New Zealand.

The New Zealand public was told that the Employment Contracts Act was required to improve labour market efficiency and productivity. In fact labour productivity growth was less than a fifth of Australia for most of the decade, and wages in New Zealand are now on average 30% lower than in Australia.

The reality was that the Employment Contracts Act was, like your WorkChoices legislation an all out assault on New Zealand workers and their capacity to organise effectively in unions to protect their pay and conditions of employment, or to provide an effective political voice for working people.

So New Zealand workers understand the seriousness of the threat that the WorkChoices legislation presents to Australian working families and communities. The Employment Contracts Act was a bitter experience for us that we wouldn't want to see you go through.

That is why we are also protesting at the Australian High Commission and Consulate in Auckland and Wellington, and why we are encouraging our Kiwi mates and families in Australia to join the National Day of Community Protest.

We eventually got rid of the Employment Contracts Act in New Zealand, and we did so by getting organised politically. The ECA was a political attack on us and we exercised our democratic right to organise politically through unions and successfully fought back.

And in 1999 we won and the Employment Contracts Act was scrapped. The new Act is not ideal but it's a lot better than the old one and conditions have improved in New Zealand over the past 6 years for working people.

But the political attack is never far way. During the recent General Election the National Party campaigned on a return of an Employment Contracts Act, and have taken a keen interest in the Howard reforms. We had to campaign hard to defeat it, but working New Zealanders sent a clear message that they don't want an Employment Contracts Act again here.

So we are fighting the same fight. We work in the same labour market, we share many of the same corporate employers, and the business and right wing political interests clearly work together against us.

We need to make sure that we continue to strengthen our Trans- Tasman solidarity and work together to restore fair industrial relations legislation in both countries. We will continue to strengthen the solidarity and close relationships between the ACTU and the NZCTU, and the many relationships that exist directly between unions here and in Australia. Like you we are organising and campaigning for a society where hard work is rewarded, pay and conditions are fair, our job security matters, and we have the freedom to exercise the trade union rights guaranteed to us as human rights by international law.


Yours sincerely,

Ross Wilson PRESIDENT

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