Abbott to review major decisions

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Abbott to review major decisions

Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott has indicated there could be policy implications arising from the Federal Court decision handed down on Friday, which ruled that the ANZ Bank breached freedom of association provisions by threatening to sack a worker who was national president of her union.

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Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott has indicated there could be policy implications arising from the Federal Court decision handed down on Friday, which ruled that the ANZ Bank breached freedom of association provisions by threatening to sack a worker who was national president of her union.

The worker, Joy Buckland, was manager of the Padstow branch in south-western Sydney, and after she failed to stop her staff from attending a stop-work meeting, and was reported in the media as speaking out against the bank's position at a rally, was formally warned by the bank. It also told her she could not speak against the bank publicly and she was threatened with the sack if she did so again.

Justice Murray Wilcox ruled the bank had breached sections of the federal Workplace Relations Act by trying to force her to go against her beliefs and those of her union. Abbott, speaking at the NSW IR Society's annual conference held on the Central Coast, said he was not aware of the decision on Friday afternoon, but would be examining it and 'let's see if there are any policy implications'.

He gave similar advice on another decision handed down by Federal Court Justice Ray Finkelstein, also last week, which could turn long-held beliefs on transmission of business on their heads. In his ruling, Justice Finkelstein ordered Amcor to make redundancy payments to 800 employees it had transferred to a new employer, performing the same jobs on the same wages and conditions.

While he admitted it seemed 'contrary to commonsense and unfair', Justice Finkelstein said under the terms of the redundancy agreement, the fact that the workers had new employment did not affect the fact that they had been made redundant.

Again, while he was not aware of the particular decision, Abbott said that 'hypothetically speaking, generally it does raise policy implications'. He referred to comments made through the week by former High Court Chief Justice Sir Harry Gibbs, in relation to the massive increase in payouts for personal injury cases, and about judges wanting to play Santa Claus.

Abbott said he agreed with Gibbs' comments, and that there was a real culture in Australia headed that way and while 'that's all very well. . . in the end someone's got to pay'.

In response to a question on whether the Government thought it wise to push on with employee share ownership plans in light of corporate disasters like Enron, in the United States, he said while directors of companies were fallible, nine out of 10 'get by and even do spectacularly well'.

He said he was not advocating employee share ownership as a substitute for pay or pay rises, but said it made sense to at least offer people the option.

Opposition IR spokesperson Robert McClelland was speaking at the same session, and he said if employees had been more involved with management decisions, corporate disasters in the making like Ansett and HIH would have been seen from a long way off.

 

 
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