The Victorian Labor government has flagged it will aim for modest annual pay rises of 2%, setting the scene for an arm-wrestle with public sector unions in bargaining over a series of major enterprise agreements.
The ACTU's triennial Congress has endorsed a proposal for state and federal governments to enact industrial manslaughter laws, after maritime union leader Chris Cain told delegates that employers who recklessly kill workers should face $20 million fines and 20 years behind bars.
Unions will next week consider pushing for stronger remedies for unfair dismissal by adopting measures such as removing the $73,000 compensation limit, enabling employees to pursue more than their lost income and empowering them to seek penalties against employers.
United Voice secretary Jo Schofield has made it clear that the union won't accept "baby steps" in moving to a universal industry bargaining system if Labor wins the next election, saying a misplaced trust in enterprise bargaining has been damaging for its members.
The ACTU will today release a jobs policy that calls for an end to public sector wage caps and pay freezes, along with calling time on the use of "illegitimate" fixed-term contracts in government jobs.
Unions are seeking the reinstatement of powers to inspect non-members' time and wages records, after their analysis of 200 job advertisements aimed at Chinese, Korean and Spanish-speakers showed that almost four out of every five pay less than the award.
New ACTU secretary Sally McManus has defended her support for unionists to break "unjust laws", arguing the ability to strike is a "human right" and that Australia is out of step with international labour conventions.