Changing IR landscape

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Changing IR landscape

The economic crisis is driving workers back into unions — at least in Queensland. Meanwhile, changes to be introduced by the Fair Work legislation will be the major topic at Informa’s Workplace Relations Summit on 30-31 March at the Sydney Harbour Marriott.

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The economic crisis is driving workers back into unions — at least in Queensland. Meanwhile, changes to be introduced by the Fair Work legislation will be the major topic at Informa’s Workplace Relations Summit on 30–31 March at the Sydney Harbour Marriott.
 
Economic crisis drives workers into unions
 
The economic crisis is driving workers back into unions — at least in Queensland.
 
Two of the state’s biggest unions have reported a surge in membership in recent months.
 
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) state secretary Andrew Dettmer said more workers were looking towards his union as the job market becomes increasingly volatile.
 
He said membership had increased by 850 in the past three months.
 
‘We're finding a lot of new members are seeking the protection of their current entitlements and pay, as well as the security of knowing they have access to legal representation should they need it,’ he said.
 
1200 increase
 
Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union (LHMU) state secretary Gary Bullock said the union had increased membership by 1200 in the past year.
 
‘We represent hospitality workers and we're finding that many of them are expecting times to get tougher and are turning to the LHMU for support and advice,’ he said.
 
Queensland Council of Unions secretary Ron Monaghan said history showed people sought out unions when times were tough.
 
Up in US, too
 
Media reports say that US union membership jumped 12% last year, apparently caused by workers' concerns over the economy.
 
Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows only 19% of workers, or 1.7 million people, were trade union members in 2008, down from around 50% in the 1970s.
 
The 2008 figure was a fall of 89,600 from the previous year.
 
Union numbers are bolstered by a strong presence in the public service.
 
 
Fair Work Bill — focus of March Workplace Relations Summit
 
Meanwhile, changes to be introduced by the Fair Work legislation will be the major topic at Informa’s Workplace Relations Summit on 30–31 March at the Sydney Harbour Marriott.
 
Representatives from industry, government, unions and the legal profession will share their thoughts on the Bill.
 
The Rudd Government’s Fair Work Bill promises to create a fairer system for employers and workers. Various submissions are currently being made at the Senate hearing, as the Federal Parliament's Employment and Workplace Relations Committee is due to hand in its report on the Bill by the end of the month.
 
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson’s submission made the case for industry leaders.
'From a business point of view, a regulatory clean-up that involves hundreds of thousands of employers, which has the prospect of imposing quite significant costs, is going to be the single most regressive aspect of the reform agenda.'
This view was supported by The Australian Retailers Association’s executive director, Richard Evans, who warned that the law would create uncertainty for employees of small retailers.
'Fair Work Australia's ultimate ability to determine the terms and conditions of employment is a costly load that will cripple SME retailers unless they alter their workforce by shifting full-time workers to casual and part-time employment.'
Whilst this line was probably to be expected from the business community, the unions seem divided between two camps, a left wing coalition on one side and the ACTU on the other.
 
'There is no doubt that the very best legal advice says the Fair Work Bill fails Australia's basic human rights and that the Federal Government has been too heavily swayed by employers,' stated Dean Mighell, the Victorian secretary of the Electrical Trades Union.
 
Sharan Burrow, the president of the ACTU took an opposing view.
'Certainly, on balance, in terms of freedom of association, the right to organise and bargain collectively, the right to be free from discrimination, child labour and forced labour, Work Choices didn't meet those tests. This bill, in general, on balance, goes to put those rights back in place.'
Peter Anderson, CEO of Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry will further discuss the industry’s response to the Fair Work Bill and analyse whether the new legislation meets industry expectations. He will also touch on implications for the introduction of additional workplace regulation and labour costs and how to understand the transitional arrangements. Peter will also take part in a round table entitled 'The balancing act: union/employer engagement' that will also include Richard Calver, national director — Industrial Relations, Master Builders Association; Jeff Lawrence, national secretary, ACTU; and Henry Skene, partner, Arnold Bloch Leibler.
 
For more information visit the Informa website. or phone +61 2 9080 4307.
 
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