Capital: Canberra
Population: 23.47m. (2014 est.)

Australia ratified both ILO Convention No.87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948) and No.98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, 1949) in 1973.

Australia has comparatively robust protection for trade union rights, based around a federal system of conciliation and arbitration in place since 1904,which established a highly structured collective bargaining and quasi-judicial conciliation and settlement systems. By the 1990s the political consensus had fundamentally shifted and Liberal governments sought to aggressively press policy objectives reducing the power of the unions and ending rigid bargaining and award structures.

The ideological battles around the legitimacy of trade union strength have regularly been fought out in political and media arenas, and in the courts, as right-wing governments have repeatedly sought to ‘liberalise’ labour law. Repeated ‘Inquires’ have exasperated construction unions. On 24 October 2017 the federal police carried out raids on both the Victorian and national headquarters of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) to seize documentation relating to organisations funded by the AWU. Unions say the police raids were unnecessary intrusion and concern events more than 10 years ago.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is the only national trade union centre, and represents the majority of trade unions in the country, comprising a membership of around 2 million. ACTU is the ITUC's affiliate and former ACTU President Sharan Burrow is the ITUC's General Secretary.

Full details of the country's political history, the development of trade unionism, and contact and affiliation details for all national trade union centres can be found in ICTUR's in-depth global reference book: Trade Unions of the World.

Link to reportFull country profile: Australia, from Trade Unions of the World (2016)

Link to letterIntervention letter: raid on union building (2017)

Link to reportIUR journal 'Why unions in Australia are looking to tax justice campaigns', by Nadine Flood (2018)

The International Centre for Trade Union Rights

Established in 1987, ICTUR is a non-profit organisation
based in London, promoting international trade
union rights through research and advocacy services.
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