Govt car funding being used as weapon: unions say
Threats to link $2 billion of car industry funding to industrial relations reform showed the federal government cared more about unionbashing than industrial peace, unions said today.
Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has warned car makers the government would consider withholding funding unless they took a hard line against unions.
The threat came after Australia's four major car makers agreed to join a unionorganised summit to work through industrial issues which have shut down, or come close to shutting down, the $27 billion industry five times since August.
In a statement released yesterday, Mr Macfarlane said the government would consider forcing the introduction of secret ballots and overhauling the code of practice covering industrial disputes.
"It appears the government will have to seriously consider linking future industry assistance to industrial relations reform if for no other reason to ensure we still have Australian car manufacturers in 10 years time," he said.
The threats came two days after Workplace Minister Tony Abbott revealed government officers were looking at ways to enforce compulsory legal action against workers accused of illegal activities during industrial disputes.
The federal government is the only party refusing to join the summit, to be organised by ACTU secretary Greg Combet.
"These people have never responded to the numerous calls I have made to sit down and discuss the future of the industry," Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) national secretary Doug Cameron said today.
"They send out press releases but they never get off their arses to fight for Australian jobs.
"BHP, General Motors, Walkers (a South Australian car component company at the centre of a strike last month) and Ford Australia have all said that they would be open to a summit to discuss the issues.
"The employers are as sick of enterprise bargaining as the workers," Mr Cameron said.
"Employers know that issues like protection of workers' entitlements and job security won't go away and that we are dealing with those issues at the industry level."
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