Call for dignity-at-work law

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Call for dignity-at-work law

The Federal Government should make an ‘urgent’ inclusion of dignity-at-work provisions into its new IR legislation, the Australian Institute of Employment Rights (AIER) has said in the wake of the Tristar decision this month.

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The Federal Government should make an ‘urgent’ inclusion of dignity-at-work provisions into its new IR legislation, the Australian Institute of Employment Rights (AIER) has said in the wake of the Tristar decision this month.

The Federal Court found that Tristar had not breached the Workplace Relations Act by not offering its workers redundancy despite giving them little or no meaningful work to carry out, even though it accepted the practice had caused the workers ‘significant’ psychological harm.

According to the AIER, the judgment sets a ‘worrying precedent’ for Australian workers and their right to work with dignity.

‘It [the judgment] suggests that the right to work extends no further than a right to receive payment for whatever duties one is directed to perform, no matter whether these are meaningful and productive and even where one performs no work at all,’ AIER treasurer Bev Myers says.

‘It thus allows for a situation which, as occurred in the case of the Tristar employees, is likely to cause serious trauma and stress for employees.’

International obligations

Myers notes that Australia is a founding member of the ILO and a signatory to seven of eight ‘fundamental’ conventions.

She says the ILO reflects the notion of dignity at work in its constitution:

‘The employment of workers in the occupations in which they can have the satisfaction of giving the fullest measure of their skill and attainments and make their greatest contribution to the common wellbeing.’

She also notes that the institute’s Charter of Employment Rights, which frames the reciprocal rights of workers and employers in Australian workplaces, recognises that labour is not a ‘mere commodity’, workers and employers have the right to be accorded dignity at work and to experience the dignity of work.

This includes being:

  • treated with respect

  • recognised and valued for the work, managerial or business functions they perform

  • provided with opportunities for skill enhancement and career progression

  • protected from bullying, harassment and unwarranted surveillance.

Fed Govt must act

Myers has called on the Federal Government to amend the Workplace Relations Act.

‘Urgent amendment of the Workplace Relations Act is thus required to ensure Australia’s compliance with its international legal obligations.'

'With the Federal Government set to implement a new industrial relations system in 2010, with draft legislation slated for introduction in September 2008, this a matter that should be addressed as a priority.’


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