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HSU members stand up to union-bashing legislation

In the last parliamentary session for 2019 the Senate rejected the government’s long heralded ‘union busting bill’.

The so called “Ensuring Integrity” Bill was a legislative attack on unions, union members and all working people.

It was clear that despite a catchy name, the “Ensuring Integrity” Bill had little to do with ‘integrity’. Instead, its purpose was to shackle unions to an unfair and unreasonable series of administrative requirements. Fall foul of one of these, and a union could be deregistered – leaving its members vulnerable to any manner of exploitation.

The Bill included other elements such as introducing a “public interest test” for union amalgamations and allowing the Federal Court to disqualify a union official for any number of minor breaches. The Government’s intentions couldn’t be clearer. They want to crush the power of unions and level any opposition to their aggressive industrial relations agenda. It isn’t enough that wage growth is practically at a standstill, that unemployment and underemployment are rising sharply – the government thinks employers should hold even more power in an already imbalanced relationship.

The repercussions of this legislation would have been dire. Work Health and Safety and Unfair Dismissal laws are just two of the areas that the Morrison wrecking crew have indicated are in their sights. Under the cover of “streamlining” or “introducing efficiencies”, they aim to trash so many protections built up by union members over years.

In the weeks leading up to the vote on the Bill, the HSU and other unions around the country were campaigning both online and on the ground, asking that members get in touch with Senate crossbenchers to convey our serious concerns about the Bill.

The HSU alone reached alone reached a mammoth 87,000 people online with our message.

Nationwide, Senate crossbenchers were inundated by 45,000+ emails, calls and tweets by union members over the past three weeks.

On Monday the 25th of November our union sent a delegation of members down to Parliament House in Canberra to join union members across the country to send a clear message to the Senate crossbench – vote the Bill down.

One of those members was HSU delegate Tess Oxley who works as a paramedic in South Western Sydney. Tess was concerned that this Bill was just the tip of the iceberg, and that the Coalition is yet to show its hand when it comes to workplace relations.

“It worries me that the government is trying to weaken our union,” she said. “It’s the only thing standing between us and much harsher conditions at work.
“That’s why I chose to come to Canberra today, to make my voice heard.”

In Canberra HSU members met with ACTU officials and lobbied politicians. Many sat in the public gallery to watch Question Time. When asked about the Union Busting Bill the Prime Minister crowed about “union thugs”.

Just days later the Senate crossbench rejected the Union Busting Bill. HSU members should talk great pride in knowing that their stories played a crucial role in swaying the vote.

It was a significant win for the union movement.

The government has since re-introduced the Bill, with new amendments, into the lower house. We know that no amendment can fix this fundamentally flawed legislation designed to strengthen the already powerful Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) and introduce additional penalties for unions.

We’ve beaten this bill once, and in 2020, the HSU will once again join unions across the country to defeat this unfair law a second time.
We couldn’t do it without our passionate members who push so hard to defend their rights.