WA Parliament Called On To Pass Changes To Industrial Relations Laws

WA Parliament Called On To Pass Changes To Industrial Relations Laws

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Petition
presented to Minister Bill Johnston (front left) by Kathy
Fagan (representing Be Slavery Free and Freedom
United).
Back row, L-R Phil O’Donaghue and Owen Whittle
(Unions WA) and Tori Anderson (also representing Be Slavery
Free and Freedom
United).

Western Australian
Minister for Industrial Relations Bill Johnston
,
received a petition calling on the Western Australian
Parliament to pass the changes in the Industrial Relations
Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 which brings Western
Australia in line with the requirements of the International
Labour Organisation’s Forced Labour Protocol of 2014 (P029)
and will allow the Commonwealth to ratify the Protocol. At
the presentation Minister Johnston said,

‘It’s
remarkable that over 100,000 global citizens, including
almost 13,000 Australians, have signed this petition to
support the global fight against modern
slavery.

‘This demonstrates how crucial it is
that the McGowan Government’s Industrial Relations
Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 swiftly passes
Parliament.

‘The important Bill will help
better protect vulnerable workers, modernise our employment
laws and bring Western Australia in line with the
requirements of the International Labour Organisation’s
Forced Labour Protocol of 2014.’

The petition
was organised by Be
Slavery Free
and Freedom
United
with international partners. According
to the Global Slavery Index more than 40 million people are
trapped in modern slavery, with approximately 25 million in
forced labour.
Australia imports approximately $18 billion worth of
products with risk of slavery in the supply chain. Forced
labour also occurs in Australia.[i]

‘These
changes to the Industrial Relations laws will send a clear
message that Western Australia is a place where people know
their work is valued. It will send a message to businesses
that there is a level playing field in Western Australia,
where you get ahead by doing the ‘right-thing’, says
Carolyn Kitto from Be Slavery Free.

‘Forced
labour is crime in Australia’s Criminal Code. More than
the law, is it in our Australian values and culture to give
people ‘a-fair-go.’

The ILO has identified
eight “fundamental” Conventions, covering subjects that
are considered to be fundamental principles and rights at
work. Protocol P29 is part of one of these eight Conventions
specifically designed to reduce the number of people trapped
on farms, in mines, factories, restaurants and homes where
unpaid wages, forced labour and modern slavery often
flourishes. It is an addition to the 1930 Forced Labour
Convention Australia has already committed to. The
Convention’s purpose is to suppress the use of forced or
compulsory labour in all its forms.

‘Migrants and
other high-risk groups often lack the necessary information
to seek help, while employers and legal officials lack the
information to recognise forced labor and adequately protect
those in need. On both sides, there is insufficient
education on the issue of forced labor and human
trafficking. This creates opportunities for perpetrators to
continue to exploit people unnoticed and unchallenged,’
says Herrana Addisu from Freedom United. ‘That is why we
need more countries to ratify the Forced Labour Protocol and
ensure everyone is well equipped to tackle modern slavery
and human trafficking’

The changes to the laws
also fix anomalies which sanctioned injustices in the past.
When WA’s Industrial Relations laws were first legislated
in 1912, and revised in 1941, horticultural and domestic
workers received no protections. This particularly impacted
Indigenous Western Australians, denying them access to basic
freedoms and protection from the
law. 

‘During much of the period Indigenous
West Australians were effectively enslaved across much of
regional WA, with men working, often entirely unpaid, as
station hands and women in domestic work and too often
subjected to sexual harassment or rape,’ states Owen
Whittle, Acting Secretary, Unions WA. ‘Today WA is the
only State or Territory in Australia with such a grossly
unfair legal barrier to protection for domestic and
horticultural workers.’ 

Australia is urged
to get behind the convention, in step with forty-five other
countries that have already signed, including New
Zealand

‘With the proliferation of modern slavery
around the world, every time a country signs a protocol such
as this, it makes it riskier and less lucrative for
slave-traders to flourish,’ says Ms Kitto, ‘We need to
step up to ensure international standards are adhered
to.’

The petition comes at a critical time as
more of the world’s poor are being made vulnerable to
exploitative work. The economic recession caused by
coronavirus is exacerbating
human trafficking
as it has shrunk formal employment and
increased irregular global migration.

[i] https://www.globalslaveryindex.org/2018/findings/highlights/

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