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By Ewin Hannan
The Australian
May 27, 2009 07:45am

UNIONS are targeting mining companies, banks and other big users of John Howard’s Work Choices as the ACTU seeks to use Labor’s new workplace laws to impose collective bargaining on employers and increase union membership and influence.

The Australian reports less than 24 hours after Telstra backflipped and resumed talks with unions, another major user of individual contracts, the Commonwealth Bank, yesterday revealed it had started talking to unions about striking a new collective union agreement, the first since 2002.

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence told The Australian the resources, finance and hotels sectors would be a focus of the union movement’s campaign to phase out individual employment contracts in favour of union collective rights once new bargaining rules became compulsory on July 1.

But the Australian Mines and Metals Association yesterday lashed out at the ACTU and the new laws, claiming the Fair Work Act would give unions a seat at the bargaining table, regardless of the interests of employees.

AMMA chief executive Steve Knott said 90 per cent of the resources sector had “moved beyond” collective bargaining, and some companies were engaged in a “last-minute dash” to sign workers on to non-union agreements that were identical to the Howard Government’s Australian Workplace Agreements.

“We are about to have unleashed on the economy the greatest increase in union power since federation,” Mr Knott said.

“Under the new system, a workplace’s ability to choose to make an agreement with its employees, without union interference, has virtually disappeared.”

Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard yesterday rejected Mr Knott’s comments. “None of the claims made by Steve Knott are true,” her spokeswoman said.

FSU national secretary Leon Carter said the Commonwealth, along with ANZ, Westpac, and National Australia Bank, were “pretty much saying they are prepared to sit down and bargain with us”.

“They would absolutely deny it but there is no doubt they are coming to terms with the fact there is a new industrial relations regime that does require them to look at collective bargaining,” Mr Carter said.

Mr Lawrence said the union movement’s message to employers was union members were entitled to be represented “and the employer has to recognise the union in bargaining and deal with employees and the unions in a more open way”.

“It is a recognition that, under the Fair Work Act, something has changed and there is a need for employers to review the approaches that they’ve had, and those with the mindset that is still Work Choices need to move on from that,” the ACTU secretary said.

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,25545022-421,00.html?referrer=email&source=eDM_newspulse

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