Court reaffirms commitment to WAWAs

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Court reaffirms commitment to WAWAs

Pay equity and increased powers for the Commissioner of Workplace Agreements are on the agenda if the Court Government wins back Government in the February 10 Western Australian state election.

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Pay equity and increased powers for the Commissioner of Workplace Agreements are on the agenda if the Court Government wins back Government in the February 10 Western Australian state election.

Launching the Coalition’s IR policy yesterday with Labour Relations Minister Cheryl Edwardes, Premier Richard Court stressed his Government’s commitment to West Australian workplace agreements, playing on emerging concerns about the different industrial landscape the Labor Party would usher in if it came to power.

While Labor has said it will make provision for an individual contracts stream, it has promised to scrap WAWAs, and replace them with individual employer-employee agreements with greater protections (see previous story).

But Court said yesterday that WAWAs and other features of his Government had ‘taken our State forward in leaps and bounds much to the chagrin of the Labor Party, which wants to take us back to the industrial relations dark ages’.

Much is being made by the Coalition of the link between unions and the ALP, although the unions and the ALP deny this.

Other pledges launched yesterday include:

  • a review of the existing minimum employment standards, with the aim of ‘better reflecting community and business needs’;
  • paid parental leave in the public sector; and
  • the retention of the Building and Construction Industry Taskforce (contrary to a Government report two years ago which recommended its abolition).

Mrs Edwardes also promised the Industrial Relations Act would be ‘modernised’ to include equal pay principles and said the Coalition, with industry support, would implement a major education and awareness campaign aimed at improving pay equity.

She has been criticised by the unions over equal pay issues in the past (see previous story) after the Government’s ministerial taskforce on pay equity produced a report recommending no further action on pay equity.

This was despite a report produced for the WA Government last year showing that women workers in WA were $20 worse off a week than their counterparts in other states.

Unions WA have refused to sign the report, and still have a case on foot in the WA IRC to have the commission insert by general order a pay equity clause into the State’s wage fixing principles. A pay equity coalition, separate from the Taskforce, continues to meet. 

Other promises launched yesterday include an expansion of the powers of the Commissioner of Workplace Agreements as regards registering agreements and overseeing fair treatment.

Edwardes said the commissioner would be able to:

  • re-examine the tests for genuine agreement making and strengthen the protection for employees facing undue pressure when finalising an agreement;
  • direct parties to reconsider a proposed workplace agreement if it does not comply with the Employee Protection Act (the previous Minimum Conditions of Employment Act);
  • refuse to register an agreement if it does not comply with the Employee Protection Act.

Edwardes said industrial inspectors would have the power to investigate and prosecute breaches of the Workplace Agreements Act 1993, and also pledged to establish an independent advisory service for workers and employers.

The advisory service would provide advice on:

  • an employee’s statutory rights;
  • how to respond ‘appropriately’ to an offer of a workplace agreement;
  • options in situations where an employer may not be responding appropriately to employee concerns;
  • options for resolving disputes about the terms of a signed workplace agreement; and
  • using the unfair dismissal system.

  

 

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