The Australian Council of Trade Unions is attempting to have a “buy Australian” clause entered into federal, state and local government procurement policies.
The new clause, which is being prepared as a resolution expected to be endorsed at an ACTU executive meeting today, would see governments give preference to Australian suppliers and manufacturers. The clause would also see more incentives for local suppliers in rural areas.
“In light of the recent wholesale sacking of the workforce at Pacific Brands, the ACTU executive requests that the Federal Government put in place a policy on government procurement and endorses action taken by unions, including direct action, to protect Australian jobs,” a motion to be approved says.
“Job creation by government is especially important in times of economic crisis… Federal and state Labor governments should have as the objectives of their procurement policy the retention and creation of jobs in Australia.
“They should also require that contractors supplying goods and services to government adhere to ethical employment practices.”
The ACTU hopes to strengthen its message by highlighting the recent sacking of 1850 workers at manufacturing group Pacific Brands.
But the Government has played down any expectations for it to favour Australian firms, and some experts have expressed concern that such policies would contravene Australia’s various free trade agreements.
But the ACTU says the Government can make the changes to procurement policies without endangering trade agreements, and plans to update the existing policy at today’s meeting. Currently local suppliers are given a 20% price advantage over foreign competitors, but that figure is expected to rise today.
The ACTU also wants to the Government to use procurement policy to help promote the new Fair Work industrial relations legislation, which is expected to be passed through the Senate later this month.
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