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Exclusive Brethren excludes unions
The Exclusive Brethren is a secretive Christian organisation that attracts a great deal of controversy over its involvement in politics. Although its members are forbidden from voting, the group spends enormous amounts of money running advertisements smearing left-wing political parties - and the families of left-wing politicians.
The Exclusive Brethren's support for conservative politicians has paid off, with legislation specially created to allow Exclusive Brethren employers (its leader, Bruce Hales, is a very wealthy businessman) the right to deny union access to their workers, as the Sydney Morning Herald has reported:
The secretive Exclusive Brethren sect appears to have won special dispensation from the Howard Government to exclude union officials from its members' businesses without consulting staff.
"If the boss is an Exclusive Brethren member, the union can't visit the workplace, no matter what the workers say about it."
In 2001, amendments to the Workplace Relations Act substantially expanded the right of some businesses to exclude unions, banning not just closed shops but preventing any union official entry to a workplace, if staff agreed. The staff consultation clause was removed under workplace legislation this year.
The Industrial Relations Commission has confirmed that, since 2002, every one of the more than 30 employers who claimed a 'conscientious objection' exemption belonged to the conservative religious organisation.
As the Sydney Morning Herald article suggests, WorkChoices made the exemption even worse. Under the old laws, bosses who are members of the sect could apply to the Industrial Relations Commission to block union access to their workplace - but the exemption could only be given if all of their employees agreed.
Now, they can block union access even if their workers want the union on site. It is not clear why an employer's 'conscientious' objection to unions should be binding on workers who don't share those beliefs, but the Howard government has voted to allow the Exclusive Brethren sect to deny workers' right to organise.
Senator Bob Brown has been trying in vain to draw attention to this issue for years. In 2004, he noted:
...[I]t appears clear the Exclusive Brethren has won special favour in the Industrial Relations package to protect itself from scrutiny of workplace abuse. The precondition that all workers agree to blocking union entry to the sect's workplaces, has been quietly dropped ...
Senator Brown called for a public register of all Exclusive Brethren workplaces.
This is yet another example of how WorkChoices imposes an industrial dictatorship - the boss's religious views are allowed to override the employees' fundamental right to organise, and to be contacted by union representatives in the workplace. If the boss is an Exclusive Brethren member, the union can't visit the workplace, no matter what the workers say about it.
This article is reproduced from Solidarity, a blog devoted to working Australians, trade unions, and industrial relations, written by Trevor Cormack. Trevor, who is 28, is based in Perth, works part-time, and is (of course) a member of his union. Visit Solidarity for frequent updates on the Howard government's anti-worker laws and other issues that affect working Australians.
Also on the Evatt site:
- Democracy: A short history, by John Keane
Also on the Evatt site about the IR changes:
- There is a better, fairer way, by Greg Combet
- Beyond industrial relations, by Bradon Ellem
- Workchoices & international standards, by Sharan Burrow
- AWAs rejected, by Kim Beazley
- The Contract Regulation Club, by Braham Dabscheck
- The industrial relations 'reforms', by John King & Frank Stilwell
- Five special essays: the introduction to our special IR issue of The State of the States
- What about collective bargaining? read one of the sample chapters from the special issue of The State of the States.
- What about working children? read one of the sample chapters from the special issue of The State of the States.
- Howard may be stretching the corporations power too far, says Jeff Shaw.
- The state of industrial relations, by Bruce Childs
- Howard's IR fails the national test
- Grave concerns, 151 Australian academics say stop.
- About the Evatt Foundation's book on the State of Industrial Relations
- Howard makes the 'blue' unlawful, by Chris White
- From Deakin to Howard: A tarnished vision, by Bob Hawke
- Farewell to the 'fair go': Howard's 'vision', by Belinda Probert
- So much for all that, by Meg Smith
- Seventeen leading researchers assess the government's proposed changes to labour law
- Inside the tent: The right to strike in Australia, by Chris White
- The fight of our lives, by Doug Cameron
- Changing Australia, Carmel Tebbutt, Tom McDonald and Jenny Lawless launch the union story
- Coming soon: workplace survivor, by Warwick McDonald
- One hundred years of arbitration: A novel institution, by Stuart Macintyre