Ensuring Integrity – the Government’s latest attack on workers and our unions
The first order of business for the Morrison Government has been to try and push through legislation that will roll-back the basic rights of working people instead of tackling near record low wage growth and a struggling economy. They turn a blind eye to millions of dollars lost to workers through wage theft and instead attack workers and our unions.
The bill is called the Registered Organisations (Ensuring Integrity) Bill but is known as the Ensuring Integrity Bill or the EI Bill.
During the election campaign the Morrison Government insisted that it had no plans to reduce workers’ rights despite constant questions from unions and the media. Now, Morrison has drawn from the wishlists of big business, dusting off previously failed legislation to attack working people’s freedom to organise.
The rights of workers to organise, and for members to democratically run their unions is an internationally recognised human right, like a free press. Free unions are essential checks on the powerful in any democracy. Every single worker benefits from the work of unions, attacking unions is another way of attacking every worker’s rights.
The Australian union movement is already heavily regulated and the EI bill goes further than any other western democracy in interfering in democratic workers organisations.
This is part of a wider web of erosion of civil liberties and democracy in Australia.
What does the EI Bill do?
The EI bill would give the Government, employers, or any other party with ‘sufficient interest’ the power to intervene in the running and work of unions, disqualify people from union leadership, block union mergers, and more easily deregister unions.
If it passes in its current form the bill would provide for automatic disqualification of a union officer for any offence under a law of the Commonwealth, a State or Territory, or another country, punishable upon conviction by imprisonment for a period of five years or more.
It would allow the ROC, the Minister, or a ‘person of sufficient interest’ to apply to the Federal Court for a wide range of orders including disqualification of an officer, deregistration of a union, alteration of a union’s eligibility rules, restriction of the use of funds or property of a union and more.
It would also allow a Federal Court to disqualify a person from holding office in a union on a wide range of grounds, including that a person is not a ‘fit and proper person’ – so, for example, if they had twice been caught driving without a license.
The Federal Court would also be able to deregister a union, disqualify officers, alter the eligibility rules, suspend the rights and privileges or restrict the use of funds or property of a union or part of the union on a wide range of grounds, including findings against the union, officers or members such as filing union paperwork late with the Government authority.
It would Introduce a long and complicated process for union amalgamations which requires the Fair Work Commission to refuse an amalgamation if an amalgamating union or its officers have even minor breaches of the law, and to consider any objections of any employer organisations based on the impact they claim the amalgamation will have on employers in the industry.
And of course, the bill does not apply to corporations or other types of elected officials like politicians.
Despite the numerous scandals in banking, aged care and corporations that has seen money stolen, elderly people without enough food, wage theft, fraud, assistance given to terrorists and people dying, no one in any of those scandals has been barred from holding office nor has a single organisation been de-registered.
With our current government barely a week goes by where there isn’t a scandal. Minister’s going to work for lobbyists, MP’s hiding their investments from the public, questionable uses of allowance and yet the Morrison government does nothing. It won’t even enforce the weak ministerial code of conduct that is already in place.
This bill fundamentally interferes with the democratic rights of working people to organise, run our own union and choose who represents us.
It must be stopped.