IR news - WorkChoices and more

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IR news - WorkChoices and more

ACCI survey finds business still likes WorkChoices; Tas union to contest 'operational' sackings of video workers; Gold mine strike over 'crook food' brings court action; Meat industry labour agreements bypass State Govts.

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ACCI survey finds business still likes WorkChoices; Tas union to contest 'operational' sackings of video workers; Gold mine strike over 'crook food' brings court action; Meat industry labour agreements bypass State Govts.

ACCI survey finds business still likes WorkChoices

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has continued its attack on Labor's IR reforms, claiming that 71% of businesses believe productivity, efficiency and the capacity to create jobs has increased under the current industrial laws.

ACCI this week released the latest results from a national pre-election survey covering 1,331 businesses of all sizes, across all States and all industries.

Key findings of the survey are:

  • 71% of businesses believe that productivity, efficiency and the capacity to create jobs has increased as a result of greater national consistency in industrial relations laws and freeing up of agreement making (two of the principal reforms in WorkChoices)
  • 68.2% of businesses reported concern or substantial concern at the prospect that industrial relations reform could be reversed. Alarm at policy rollback is particularly acute in the construction, retail and wholesale industries
  • concern with unfair dismissal laws remains high at 53%, but has dropped from 76% following the commencement of the 'small business' and the 'operational reasons' exemptions created by WorkChoices
  • a high level of concern with wage levels (69.6%), reflecting the tight labour market

Business is also concerned at the prospect of wages and labour costs becoming divorced from productivity and workplace circumstances.

Other survey responses reveal business concern regarding employment regulation, minimum wages, occupational health and safety, and workers compensation.

The results of the ACCI pre-election survey on industrial relations and occupational health and safety are available from the ACCI website.

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Tas union to contest 'operational' sackings of video workers

A Tasmanian union is contesting the sacking of two video library attendants dismissed for 'operational reasons'.

ACTU Secretary, Jeff Lawrence, said the attendants were sacked after eight years service at Video City stores in Devonport and Burnie, Tasmania.

'The long-serving workers were sacked earlier this year, with the employer stating that the dismissals were for 'operational reasons' - an excuse which allows large companies to sack workers unfairly under the WorkChoices IR laws,' Lawrence said.

Application in Federal Court

The Tasmanian branch of the LHMU has yesterday lodged an application in the Federal Court to contest the dismissal of the two employees.

Lawrence said a new study by Dr Anthony Forsyth of Monash University released this week has confirmed the WorkChoices IR laws have given employers wide powers to sack staff unfairly, and that employers are implementing 'brazen labour cost-cutting strategies' under the guise of 'operational reasons'.

'The study found that the "operational reasons" exemption under WorkChoices is allowing large employers to dismiss employees and replace them with lower-paid workers,' he said.

Shown the door

'The report shows that if the boss doesn't like you or wants to employ someone on an AWA individual contract more cheaply, you can be shown the door, no matter how long you have served.'

The ACTU is highlighting the operational reasons issue in its latest anti-WorkChoices TV ad.

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Gold mine strike over 'crook food' brings court action

Five unions and five union representatives are facing massive fines over strike action at a gold mine, allegedly relating to food and hygiene standards.

The construction industry watchdog, ABCC, alleges the unions and the men were engaged in unlawful industrial action.

The case relates to two strikes at the Lake Cowal gold mine site near West Wyalong in NSW. The first lasted for three days from 15 to 17 October 2005. The second occurred on 10 November 2005.

AIRC 'not convinced' food a health risk

It is alleged by the ABCC that the first strike was in support of claims against John Holland concerning food and hygiene standards. An employee had complained about contaminated food. The Australian Industrial Relations Commission later found it was 'not convinced' that the condition of the kitchen posed a health and safety risk.

The second strike on 10 November 2005 followed an authorised stop-work meeting at 10.30am on that day. The head contractor instructed employees to return to work as the meeting had exceeded its scheduled duration. The men then went on strike for the rest of the day. It is alleged the strike was called as a protest against the instruction.

The ABCC alleges the CFMEU, CFMEU Qld, and the Federated Engine Drivers' and Firemens' Association of Qld, the AWU and AWU NSW, and the five representatives, engaged in unlawful industrial action.

The proceeding is scheduled for its next directions hearing in the Federal Court at Sydney on 5 February 2008.

The unions face fines of $110,000 for each of the offences, and the union representatives $22,000.

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Meat industry labour agreements bypass State Govts

The Federal Government has by-passed the States and will now allow companies in the meat industry to directly access overseas skilled workers by entering into Labour Agreements.

The Minister for Immigration, Kevin Andrews, said that following months of unsuccessful negotiations with State Governments in NSW and Victoria, the Commonwealth will now enter into Labour Agreements directly with meat companies.

He said the benchmark for the labour agreement will be that signed by the Commonwealth, Australian Meat Holdings and the Queensland State Government in February this year.

Training Australian workers

Andrews said the meat industry Labour Agreement 'mandates for the training of Australian workers and sets the skill level and salary for overseas workers, thereby further strengthening the integrity of the Subclass 457 visa program'.

'Amendments to the Migration Regulations will assist meat companies to transition from standard business sponsorship arrangements to the Labour Agreement framework, which better provides for the skill needs of their industry,' he said. 'Companies requesting access to an agreement will be given priority to negotiate a new Labour Agreement.

'All applications currently being processed and all new applications made after 10 September 2007 will be considered under the new framework.'

For further information, meat companies should email Meat.Industry@immi.gov.au

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