The metal trades union has been the most important union to the majority of workers, with union figures predicting that a large majority of all workers would vote against the government.
“The government has not listened to workers and it is working against the workers, it is not listening to the people,” said Peter Jones, general secretary of the Metalworkers Union.
“There is a lot of anger and there is a need for workers to get their voices heard.
They are being let down by the government.”
The Metalworkers union has about 700,000 members and its members have been particularly vocal in opposing the Government’s plans for a $7.5 billion privatisation of aluminium trading and the removal of the union’s right to strike.
The union says it is concerned about the proposed changes to union rights and the impact they could have on its members and staff.
“It’s really disappointing that the Government is trying to roll back the gains of the past decades, but the reality is the majority will be affected by this privatisation and removal of our right to collectively bargain,” said Jones.
He also criticised the Government for continuing to use the words “national security” and “national defence” when referring to its plans.
“We don’t think they should be used in the same way as they are in the US, they should use those words in the UK, they shouldn’t use them in Australia,” he said.
The Government has said that while it will allow the union to continue to be a bargaining agent in negotiations with its competitors, it has stopped the union from negotiating directly with the Government and has restricted the union its right to collective bargaining.
The government says the changes will allow it to focus on reducing the risk of a strike and its ability to secure future contracts.
But the union says the government has failed to adequately communicate its plans to its members.
“This Government has not come out and said ‘we are going to stop the privatisation process, but this is a government that will be there and there will be no unions’.”
Jones said he was also concerned about a proposed change that would make it illegal for union leaders to raise their pay to members.
He said if the union were allowed to increase pay in line with other public sector unions, this would mean members would not be paid for the amount of work they did.
“A lot of people will be left in the dark about what the union is going to get paid for their work,” he added.
Al Jazeera’s Andrew North, reporting from Perth, said the government is now looking to reduce the cost of union representation, arguing that it is cheaper to let existing unions continue to negotiate directly with each other.
“But they are trying to keep costs down, they are saying ‘if you want to be part of this, we will get you out of it’,” he said, adding that the union will be looking to negotiate a better deal for its members as part of the privatised aluminium sector.