Unions want 'second wave' industry reforms

UNION leaders will demand Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard commit Labor to a "second wave" of industrial relations reforms at the next federal election, using next month's ACTU Congress as a springboard to try to secure more union-friendly workplace changes.

They are finalising an industrial relations platform that goes substantially further than Labor's Fair Work Act by advocating a raft of pro-union proposals.

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence told The Australian yesterday that the congress would set the union movement's agenda before it was pressed at the subsequent ALP national conference in July-August.

"We will be urging and campaigning for further legislation in accordance with our policy," Mr Lawrence said.

Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Brian Boyd said the state's unions had endorsed a strategy to "use congress to push hard to get a second-term agenda out of the Government".

Mr Boyd warned Labor should not expect a repeat of the successful Your Rights At Work campaign unless the Government was prepared to make substantial promises.

"To get re-elected, they need us more than the employers," he said. "If enough people are dispirited, it's a bit hard to mobilise them."

Mr Boyd said it was important that the congress articulated the union movement's "unfinished business", including easing limitations on collective bargaining, the right to take industrial action, and union entry into workplaces.

Union leaders will also use the congress to highlight what they claim is the "anti-democratic" conduct of the building industry watchdog, the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Unions have launched a "Rights on Site" multimedia campaign designed to increase pressure on the Government to abolish the commission and restore rights to 900,000 construction workers. Mr Boyd said the Rudd Government was "not even close to being in office as long as the British Labour Party, yet it is starting to act and sound like it".

"The British Labour Party in the 90s quickly departed from a social progressive framework and embraced uncritically capitalism, allowing and encouraging the market to determine the direction of society," he said.

Ms Gillard, the Workplace Relations Minister, has told union leaders not to expect another wave of major changes after the Fair Work Bill becomes law.

Mr Lawrence said the congress would also map out proposals aimed at improving job security, including the protection of workers' entitlements.

The federal election is expected next year.