Bill Shorten makes bid for unions' support

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has promised to strengthen workers' rights, starting with restoring and protecting penalty rates, if Labor wins government.

Mr Shorten at a press conference in Brisbane

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has told unions he will restore penalty rates if he wins government. (AAP)

Bill Shorten has outlined his industrial relations policy in a clarion call to unions, with Nelson Mandela and Donald Trump featuring in the Labor leader's speech.

Mr Shorten spoke at the triennial Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress on Tuesday night, promising to give unions a "rightful and respected" place in a government he leads.

If the opposition leader becomes prime minister after the next election, he will ensure his first official meeting would be with indigenous leaders to discuss constitutional recognition and a treaty.

On the eve of Mr Mandela's 100th birthday, Mr Shorten spoke of unions' inextricable link with the iconic South African anti-apartheid revolutionary.

He said Australian conservative politicians wanted to follow the lead of US president Mr Trump.

"The only argument this meaningless conservative government can offer us is 'oh well, President Trump has done it, so we should too'," Mr Shorten said.

If Labor can defeat the coalition at the next federal poll, legislating to restore and protect penalty rates will be first cab off the rank.

Mr Shorten said that will happen within the first 100 days of a Labor government.

"We're going to reform the Fair Work Act, so we can put the bargain back into enterprise bargaining," he said.

Bill Shorten says, if elected, restoring penalty rates will be Labor's first cab off the rank.
Source: AAP

Feminised occupations will be recognised in the same way male-dominated industries are.

"We cannot simply leave equal pay to the invisible hand and the free market," Mr Shorten said.

So-called "permanent casual" workers and fixed-term contracts will also be in Labor's sights.

"There is no such thing, in a future Labor government, as a permanent casual. Once you've been in that job for a period of time, you are a permanent worker," the Labor leader said.

"And in the same vein we will look at new action to stop the spread of the overuse of fixed-term contracts."

Mr Shorten is planning to make company bosses pay the price for dodgy practices, with sham contracting and "phoenixing" also a target.

"We will make every director in this country have a director's number so if they rip off workers once, they don't get that second chance," he said.

Labor has also committed to a crackdown on labour hire firm rorts by legislating to ensure workers get the same deal as direct employees.

Published 18 July 2018 at 3:36am, updated 18 July 2018 at 4:56am
Source: AAP