The Guardian May 31, 2000


Reith's laws "must be stopped"

Union opposition is building to Workplace Relations Minister Peter 
Reith's new anti-union legislation. The new laws would eliminate workers' 
rights to bargain collectively. Unionists across the work spectrum are 
rejecting the laws. The Joy Manufacturing workers from Moss Vale, south of 
Sydney, who have been locked out for three months, have presented a 
submission to the Senate inquiry into Reith's Workplace Relations 
Amendments Bill.

The workers outlined their plight to the inquiry, arguing that under the 
present laws they have been manipulated by their employer who has locked 
them out while stripping the factory of its assets in the lead-up to 
announcing a bankruptcy.

The workers stressed that the latest attempt by Reith to weaken union 
rights would further undermine their ability to fight for their rights.

The proposed laws would, among other things, force the Industrial Relations 
Commission to order strikes to cease within 48 hours if requested by an 
employer, and to terminate bargaining periods if it considers that a union 
is pursuing a common claim through an industry i.e. pattern bargaining.

Meanwhile, the cast of the television drama Water Rats, members of 
the Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance, have also spoken out against 
the laws.

"Like many in the community we are concerned that Peter Reith has swung the 
balance too far against workers", said actor Toni Scanlan. "The new laws 
will tip the balance even further and should be stopped.

"It is important that politicians understand that these laws will have a 
negative impact on performers in our industry", she said. "Performers rely 
on their right to negotiate together to get a fair go."

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said workers would be looking to the Democrats 
to block the legislation.

"Australians want a fair go from their workplace laws", said Ms Burrow.

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