Unions criticise Labor decision to endorse trade deals that contradict Labor policy

October 21, 2019:  Weekend media reported that union leaders have strongly criticised the ALP decision to approve the enabling legislation for the Indonesia, Hong Kong and Peru agreements.

AFTINET’s media release last week noted that the decision does not change the text of the agreements, which still contain provisions that are contrary to Labor policies. Labor has obtained some assurances from the government for a review of the Indonesian ISDS provisions after five years, that existing labour laws will apply to temporary workers and some other issues. But the language of many of these assurances is weak and they may not be delivered.

ACTU President Michelle O’Neill was quoted in The Guardian: “The decision by the ALP to side with the government is an abandonment both of their own platform, and of their responsibility to stand up for fair trade deals which deliver jobs for local workers, that protect Australia’s public services, sovereignty and visa workers from exploitation and that ensure international labor standards in the countries we trade with.”

The Australian quoted Michael O’Connor, National Secretary of the Construction Forestry Mining Maritime and Energy Union saying “Everybody in the trade union movement supports trade. We just want to make sure that if there are to be trade agreements, that they are robust, fair and don’t diminish the job opportunities of Australians. It’s not much to ask from a party that claims to represent workers. You would have thought it would be a natural position for them to adopt.”

The National Secretary of the Electrical trades Union Allen Hicks was also quoted in The Australian saying “Temporary labour visas are a license for wage theft. The temporary worker has no capacity to enforce their rights because if they complain they face the threat of deportation.”