Both major parties will come under pressure to introduce new laws that send bosses to jail over workplace deaths, as union heavyweights call for renewed attacks on the Turnbull government.
Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus has closed the peak body’s two-day congress with a rallying cry to almost 1000 delegates in Brisbane.
“Every single union, every single delegate here needs to put their shoulder to the wheel 100 per cent,” Ms McManus said on Wednesday.
Unions set their policy agenda for the next three years, approving a push for industrial manslaughter laws that would punish bosses for deaths at work.
The ACTU resolved to seek a treaty with indigenous people, the end of live animal exports, and a wide-ranging work safety policy that includes more regulation and eradicating asbestos.
If unions get their way, employee representatives would be on company and government-managed boards, including the Reserve Bank.
Ms McManus asked delegates for total determination, especially for the next three to nine months when a federal election is expected.
Industry-wide bargaining is one of the ACTU’s main focuses of its Change the Rules campaign.
“We need a change to our bargaining laws. Working people need the same rights that nearly every other country in the OECD has,” Ms McManus told reporters.
“We want to bring back the fair go and we can’t have a fair go without a fair system.”
One of Australia’s most powerful union leaders Michael O’Connor said membership levels needed addressing.
The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union national secretary was fired up as he told delegates having one in 10 people in Australia as union members was a fundamental issue.
“We’ve got to grow the movement. It’s not good enough where we are right now, comrades,” Mr O’Connor said.
New ACTU president Michele O’Neil nominated leadership diversity as a key way to grow unions’ power.
She backed changes to make the “basic human right” to strike easier, among other changes to industrial relations laws.
Ms O’Neil closed the conference by starting a chant of “stand up, fight back”.
UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared in a video message played at the start of the second day of congress.
“We know the most effective way to maintain good rights at work is collectively through a union,” Mr Corbyn said.
Former treasurer and newly elected ALP president Wayne Swan said the Fair Work Act needed to be rewritten but said Labor’s leadership team would consult with unions over what would be changed.