Australia: Draft Letter for Journalists’ unions

The list of Australian missions is available online:

The Hon. John Howard MP

Prime Minister of Australia

Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600


Fax: (612) 6273 4100

Dear Prime Minister,

Rights of Journalists and Media Staff under Proposed Workplace Laws

I am writing on behalf of [NAME OF YOUR ORGANISATION] to express grave concern over your Government’s plans for drastic changes to workplace laws. We believe that these changes would do significant harm to Australia’s reputation and standing in the international community.

Australia’s great industrial relations traditions are being threatened by a doctrinaire approach to industrial relations which is intent upon weakening the rights of employed workers. When this happens in media it will undermine morale in the workforce, create an unfair balance in favour of employers’ interests and in the process it will undermine the capacity for independent and vigorous journalism.

We are greatly alarmed, in particular, at proposals for abolishing protection from unfair dismissal for some 4 million workers employed in companies with less than 100 employees. This is discriminatory and will lead to companies re-structuring their operations in order to escape legal obligations.

Your government’s proposal to keep unions out of workplaces would further undermine the right of workers to bargain collectively with their employer, and contravenes ILO Convention 98. Australia already stands in breach of this fundamental Convention, and the planned new legislation will increase the gap between Australian law and the country’s international obligations.

In addition, we are concerned that:

• By reducing allowable matters in awards to only 5 conditions, many workers will lose important entitlements such as weekend, shift and public holiday rates of pay;

• By ensuring that more workers are forced onto individual contracts, workers who do not wish to sign such contracts will be intimidated through fear of dismissal.

These proposals are of particular concern to journalists and media staff and may have a detrimental impact on the capacity of journalists to work in protected social conditions that are needed for journalism to flourish.

We also believe they will place Australia in further breach of the fundamental international labour standards established by ILO Conventions, whose ratification and implementation should form the basis of all countries’ industrial relations policies. If implemented, the proposed changes would leave Australia at the bottom of OECD countries with respect to protection of basic workers’ rights.

Over the last month, the Australian people have shown great popular opposition to these proposals. We urge you to give proper consideration to their concerns, and abandon your proposals in the interests of the Australian people. We are deeply concerned at these proposals and pledge our full support to the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance and the Australian Council of Trade Unions and their members in opposing these plans.

Yours faithfully,