Voter registration campaign
The TUC has been asked to assist the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) in encouraging Australians in Britain to register to vote in the forthcoming Australian election. This email explains the issues, and sets out the action which unions need to take.
Australia will have a federal election before the end of 2007. The date of the election is likely to be between October and December 2007. This election is the first test of John Howard's Government's infamous 'WorkChoices' legislation, which is doing serious damage to Australian workers' rights.
'WorkChoices' undermines collective bargaining by promoting individual contracts, cutting overtime pay and wages, annual leave, sick leave, affecting work-life balance, unfair dismissal and more. At the same time, it restricts the ability of unions to defend their members, and the new so-called Fair Pay Commission is undermining minimum wage rates in Australia.
'WorkChoices' will be a key issue in this year's elections. And Britain will be key to the election outcome.
There are over 300,000 Australian voters working in the UK, many in highly unionised sectors like teaching and health - indeed the polling station with the highest number of votes cast in the Australian elections won't be Melbourne or Sydney, but London - at the High Commission on the Strand!
Knowing that many Australians abroad are not supporters of 'WorkChoices', John Howard's Government has changed the arrangements for registering to vote overseas. Instead of the traditional system where you could register for a week after the election was called (people are obviously more likely to use their right to register when they know an election is underway), now, Australians need to have registered before the election is called, and before all the public campaigning is underway.
So we need to urge Australians who are members of unions to register their vote, so they can have a say on 'WorkChoices'. (Studies show that Australians abroad are likely to vote 7:3 against 'WorkChoices'.)
First, the number of Australians who are members of unions - we have a duty to make sure members can exercise their right to vote, wherever they come from. And many more union members have close relatives in Australia, so they will have an interest in what's happening there.
Second, the 'WorkChoices' legislation - condemned at the ILO - is bad for our trade union sisters and brothers in Australia and we owe them our solidarity.
Third, it could be bad for us, too. If governments around the world see John Howard getting away with 'WorkChoices', then others may follow.
Unions should also consider communicating with members with close relatives in Australia. They could help persuade their relatives to vote against the 'WorkChoices' legislation, by letting them know how unfair 'WorkChoices' is and reminding them what similar legislation did to the UK in the 1980s.
Briefing document (700 words) issued 27 Jul 2007
This page http://www.tuc.org.uk/international/tuc-13569-f0.cfm
printed 24 May 2013 at 13:31 hrs by 184.108.40.206