Flexibility clauses should not hurt workers: Della Bosca

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Flexibility clauses should not hurt workers: Della Bosca

Flexibility clauses in modernised awards should not be a vehicle to undercut award conditions or established community standards, NSW IR Minister John Della Bosca has told the AIRC.

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Flexibility clauses in modernised awards should not be a vehicle to undercut award conditions or established community standards, NSW IR Minister John Della Bosca has told the AIRC.

In putting the NSW Government’s submission on award modernisation to a Full Bench, Della Bosca said the past experience of AWAs ‘demonstrated the devastating impact of the imbalance of bargaining power in the vast majority of workplaces and that conditions can be lost, even if there is a no-disadvantage test’.

‘The award modernisation process should not be used as a device to reintroduce such unfair and inequitable individual arrangements as witnessed under WorkChoices; and any award flexibility clause should include adequate protections for employees,’ he said.

Test cases recommended

Della Bosca recommended test cases in specific industries and warned that a flexibility clause would need to include adequate protections for employees.

‘Any modernisation process must retain a strong, effective and relevant award system, together with an independent tribunal with broad powers,’ he said.

Della Bosca said successfully achieving this requires the co-operation of employer organisations and unions, and a proper process that respects existing rights and the role of the Commission.

‘In New South Wales, hundreds of thousands of workers and employers currently rely on State awards as a full set of fair and reasonable conditions of employment, rather than a mere floor from which parties can bargain,’ he said.

Community standard — the goal

‘These awards embody true community standards, which have been developed over a 100 years in the State system. Such standards are explicitly designed to set fair and reasonable conditions of employment.'

‘Employees under these awards are among the most vulnerable groups in society — such as women, young people and migrants.'

‘For example, the NSW Pay Equity standard, which is directed at women, establishes a contemporary and dynamic community standard designed to specifically address systemic issues and meet the public interest.'
‘This is a unique State approach not currently replicated in the Commonwealth system.’


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