Workers Uniting Statement on Police Repression of Australian Trade Unions

On 25 October 2017, Australian Federal Police conducted raids on the offices of the Australian Workers’ Union.

The raids were initiated by the government’s “Registered Organisation Commission”, a supposedly neutral regulator of unions and employer organizations, created six months ago. Media outlets were given advance warning of the raids, presumably by the government, to maximize publicity.

The raids are apparently about allegations that the union gave financial support to a progressive community group ‘Get Up’ along with political candidates more than a decade ago.

The raids on the AWU are part of a pattern of police attacks on Australian unions. The head of another anti-union government body, the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), was forced to resign last month after misrepresenting labor laws in briefings to employers and ordered to pay a fine to the CFMEU union. The Deputy Head of the ABCC resigned, just weeks after his appointment in August, to disassociate himself from the conduct of the Commission’s head. One of the more notorious acts of the ABCC was to threaten to ban construction companies that allowed union flags to fly on building sites from access to government contracts. Unions have criticized the ABCC as having a “disastrous impact” on safety in the industry.

Workers Uniting calls on the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his government to cease his intimidation of democratic trade unions.  We stand ready to support our Australian sisters and brothers in defense of their rights as workers and citizens to organize and to participate in political activities.

We note that Chapter 18 of the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement requires Australia to uphold international labor standards including freedom of association.  We also note that the European Union is commencing negotiation of a trade agreement with Australia and that the UK Government has expressed interest in negotiating a trade agreement following Brexit. Should the Australian government continue its assault on workers’ rights, we are prepared to demand that our governments take action to sanction the Turnbull government for its actions.


Workers Uniting is the international union created by Unite - the biggest union in the UK and Republic of Ireland - and the United Steelworkers (USW), North America's largest private sector union. Workers Uniting draws on the energies of more than three million active and retired workers from the United States, Canada, Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland who work in virtually every sector of the global economy, including manufacturing, service, mining and transportation.

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