Last week, Labor attracted scorn from union leaders after the party’s caucus voted to support the federal government’s proposed free-trade agreements (FTAs) with Indonesia, Hong Kong and Peru. The key area of contention is that the Indian and Peru FTAs include working rights, which would expand the number of temporary migrant workers in Australia by several thousand, thus further undercutting local workers.
Over the weekend, a union-backed motion opposing free these FTAs was narrowly defeated 67 votes to 64 at the 2019 conference of Labor’s Northern Territory branch. The motion included a provision that MPs who vote for policies against the national platform should be expelled from the party. Warren Snowdon, Luke Gosling and Malarndirri McCarthy could have faced expulsion if the motion had been passed. From The Australian:
The ACTU and some Labor MPs argue that the free-trade deals, which the Labor leader and federal caucus backed last week, are a violation of the policy platform.
The motion was proposed by the Electrical Trades Union and backed by the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union. CFMEU Queensland and NT secretary Michael Ravbar spoke in favour of the motion…
The Opposition Leader yesterday defended supporting the agreements, saying they were “good for Australian jobs”…
The union movement claims that Labor has reneged on a deal to protect Australian workers in FTAs:
Back in December 2018 the AMIEU and other Unions made a deal with the Labor Party that the conditions of Australian workers would be protected in all future trade agreements.
Labor was so embarrassed when we threatened to picket a Bill Shorten fundraising event they agreed to introduce better and fairer trade agreement legislation.
We expect Labor to honour the deal struck with the Union movement, but already they are showing signs of flopping. Labor Parliamentarians MUST OPPOSE the Liberal Government’s new free trade agreements with Indonesia, Hong Kong and Peru.
These new trade agreements will increase the number of temporary visa workers in Australia, of which there are already 1.4 million. Visa workers are taken advantage of by multinational corporations and used to erode the wages and conditions of everyone.
Not only have these free trade agreements not been independently assessed, they do not require labour market testing and even allow multinationals to sue the Australian government if they aren’t making enough money.
The AMIEU has written to Federal Labor, Greens and Independent Parliamentarians to oppose the proposed free trade agreements. We urge these Parliamentarians to closely examine the new trade agreements to see just how they will disadvantage Australian workers.
Federal Labor Parliamentarians, if you aren’t going to fight for the workers you claim to represent, you aren’t fit for your job.
As I said last week, the “Labor” Party no longer supports the working class, but rather inner-city social justice warriors and virtue signallers. They care more about identity politics than real issues that impact the working class.
Nor is the union movement adequately representing its working-class. While it is fighting the good fight on FTAs, it remains a wholehearted supporter of Australia’s mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ policy, even signing a ‘Big Australia’ immigration compact with employer groups last year.
This comes despite mass immigration being a key driver of inequality, since it raises the wealth of capitalists while driving down the wages of ordinary workers, and forces workers to live in smaller and more expensive housing.
Rather than focussing on tiny FTAs, unions need to push for root-and-branch immigration reform, starting with dramatically lowering the overall permanent migrant intake, as well as setting a wage floor for ‘skilled’ migrants at the 80th to 90th percentile of earnings or double the median wage.
This would ensure the scheme is used sparingly by employers on only the highest skilled migrants, not as a general labour market tool for accessing cheap foreign labour and eliminating the need for training.