International unions threaten push for trade sanctions against Australia for AWU raids

International unions have threatened to lobby their governments for trade sanctions against the Australian government in response to last week's Australian Federal Police raids on Australian Workers Union offices.

The UK-based Workers Uniting and United Steelworkers in North America has issued a statement that threatens pushing for sanctions if the Australian government continues to attack workers' rights.

The statement calls on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his government to "cease his intimidation of democratic trade unions".

"Should the Australian government continue its assault on workers' rights, we are prepared to demand that our governments take action to sanction the Turnbull government for its actions," the statement says.

"We stand ready to support our Australian sisters and brothers in defense of their rights as workers and citizens to organize and to participate in political activities."

The international unions says Chapter 18 of the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement requires Australia to uphold international labour standards including freedom of association. It says the European Union is negotiating a trade agreement with Australia and that the UK government has expressed interest in negotiating a trade agreement following Brexit.

The statement refers to the controversial Australian Federal Police raids triggered by the federal government's new Registered Organisation Commission. The statement refers to the ROC as "a supposedly neutral regulator of unions and employer organizations".

The statement says media outlets were given advance warning of the raids, "presumably by the government, to maximize publicity".

The raids were part of an investigation into donations the AWU gave to activist group "Get Up" more than a decade ago when Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was head of the union.

The Workers Uniting statement says the raids on the AWU are part of a pattern of police attacks on Australian unions.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the Turnbull government was damaging Australia's international reputation.

"International unions lobbying their governments to sanction the Turnbull government during free trade negotiations is an unprecedented step," she said.

"It's no wonder the international union movement shares the outrage felt by the ACTU over the Turnbull government's endless attacks on working people."

Fairfax Media is seeking comment from the federal government.

This story International unions threaten push for trade sanctions against Australia for AWU raids first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.