POLICE RAIDS ON OFFICES of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) in October are being described as “politically motivated”, with global unions threatening to mount a campaign for sanctions against the Australian government for violation of workers’ rights.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) were acting on instructions from of one of the bodies which the Liberal (Tory) government have set up to try to break trade unions. The government's Registered Organisations Commission ordered the raids on AWU offices in Sydney and Melbourne in an effort to smear Labour Party leader Bill Shorten who was the previous President of AWU.
Aussie unions have called for an investigation of who tipped off the media - who were in place to film the raids. Right wing Employment Rights minister Michaelia Cash is being openly branded as a “liar” in the media as she claimed nobody in her department was responsible.
The raids were ordered to seize documents relating to an investigation into donations the union made to an NGO, GetUp! Limited, in 2006 and whether they were approved under the AWU rules. The AWU said: “The AWU has always provided support to different campaigning and community organisations. We were proud to be early supporters of the formation of GetUp! All donations are processed and disclosed as appropriate, and that’s certainly the case here. The support we gave to GetUp! was endorsed by the national executive at the time.”
Workers Uniting, the global union formed by Unite and the United Steelworkers in the US and Canada, met with leaders of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and issued a statement threatening to press for sanctions against the Australian government for violating workers’ rights. Workers Uniting said Chapter 18 of the Australia - US Free Trade Agreement requires Australia to uphold international labour standards, including freedom of association.
The Liberal government has set up a series of anti-union bodies to try to break unions. These include the Australian Building and Construction Commission; the Registered Organisations Commission; and a Trade Union Royal Commission, designed to root out ‘illegal activities’. This produced few results. It is now trying to introduce legislation to stop union mergers which it describes as “not in the public interest” - notably a merger between the CFMEU and the Maritime union, which the government fears will create a militant union.
Sally McManus, the new General Secretary of the Australian TUC said: “The ACTU condemns the nakedly political use of the AFP in action against working people and their representatives. Using the police in such a way, while refusing to do anything to prevent money laundering by terrorists and drug dealers by the big banks, demonstrates the government’s appalling priorities... Malcolm Turnbull’s grubby political tactics and abuse of power to attack those who oppose his antiworker policies is a new low.”