It is understood activists have requested the ACTU take the same approach in Macnamara and Kooyong – two other Melbourne seats expected to be on a knife-edge – but its leadership has instead opted not to hand out in those seats.
ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said in a statement that the union peak body’s campaign was focussed on “changing the laws for working people”.
“This means electing people in the lower house who support these changes as well as changing the Senate,” Ms McManus said.
Greens MP Adam Bandt, who holds the seat of Melbourne and is the party’s industrial relations spokesman, said a Labor government without a strong Greens presence may leave activists disappointed by Mr Shorten’s workplace law reforms.
“In 2007, working people helped changed the government but then got stuck with bad laws when Labor kept large parts of John Howard’s WorkChoices,” Mr Bandt said.
“Greens in Parliament won’t just help change the rules, we’ll make sure Labor doesn’t backslide again.”
The ACTU’s multi-million dollar Change the Rules campaign is pushing for sweeping changes to Australia’s industrial relations system, including pattern bargaining rights to allow workers to strike across industries – but Mr Shorten is under pressure to restrict this to low-paid industries.
The rift within the union movement over Greens’ preferences extends to North Queensland, where Ms McManus has defended her decision to place a Katter’s Australian Party candidate ahead of the Greens on how-to-vote cards in a marginal coal seat.
The ACTU angered some left-wing activists by putting the Greens fourth in Capricornia, behind KAP and the Democratic Labour Party, prompting outcry from some concerned about climate change and demanding broader strike rights.
They’re also placing Greens candidates third or lower in how-to-vote cards in the Queensland seats of Dawson, Flynn and Herbert.
Ms McManus deleted a tweet labelling a union member’s criticism of the how-to-vote card “ridiculous” on Wednesday.
Ms McManus said Labor was the only party with a viable chance in most of the lower house seats where the ACTU was campaigning.
“We are confident that an ALP government will deliver a fair go for working people,” she said.
Dana is health and industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.