The Australian Institute of Employment Rights is today releasing its submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Freedoms Inquiry. The submission focuses on the encroachments in Commonwealth law on the right to freedom of association.

“Freedom of association is essential in a democracy.  At its core freedom of association is the right for people to collectively protect and enhance their social and economic interests, including by challenging power holders, whether it be governments, multi-national corporations or employers”, said AIER Executive Director, Clare Ozich.

“Yet this key right is under increasing threat in Australia. State and federal governments have been trying to limit freedom of association in relation to environmental and social protest, and when it comes to recognising this right in workplaces, Australian law falls well short of international standards.”

“For workers, freedom of association is much more than merely the right to join a trade union. It must also allow for the exercise of the collective rights that accompany union membership, notably collective bargaining and the right to strike. These rights are internationally recognised as necessary for people to further their economic and social interests. “

“We are currently seeing a resurgence in the public debate on human rights, unfortunately driven by a series of human rights abuses being perpetrated by the government. However, the curtailment of rights is not limited to any one government”, said Ms Ozich.

The Fair Work Act fails to recognise key elements of the internationally recognised right to freedom of association, in particular the Act encroaches on the right to collectively bargain and the right to strike. The International Labor Organisation has repeatedly found Australian law breaches ILO Conventions.

“The rise of insecure and precarious work, the increase in the use of labour hire, and the pressure to reduce minimum standards are all significant challenges. To address these challenges the right to collectively bargain must be fully recognised in Australian law.”

“The increasing inequality Australia is experiencing has been exercising the minds of governments and policy makers. The AIER contends that an industrial relations system that promotes dignity at work and decent work through fully realised collective bargaining has a crucial role to play in any policy response to growing inequality,” Clare Ozich said.

Download the AIER submission to ALRC Freedoms Inquiry

26 February 2015

Media contact: Clare Ozich – 0403 456 131