Coalition IR amendments would curb unions, restrict arbitration

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Coalition IR amendments would curb unions, restrict arbitration

The Coalition has announced six amendments it wants to make to the Government’s Fair Work Bill which would curtail union power and further restrict the arbitration powers under the legislation.

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The Coalition has announced six amendments it wants to make to the Government’s Fair Work Bill which would curtail union power and further restrict the arbitration powers under the legislation.
 
The amendments have been welcomed by business, which says they will ‘add some balance and workability’ to the new system.
 
Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull announced the amendments last night, saying the current Bill ‘extends union power, provides a disincentive for employment and goes beyond what the Labor Party took to the election in 2007’.
 
Turnbull said the Party Room had not yet decided whether to support the legislation, and would wait to see ‘what’s in the Bill’.
 
He said the Coalition would insist on its amendments but may be able to negotiate alternatives with the independent Senators or perhaps the Government.
 
Key areas
 
The key areas the Coalition wants amended are:
 
1. Union access to non-union member records
 
All employees have a right to privacy and should have their records protected at work. The Bill weakens this right and allows unions to access these records. The Coalition would retain the existing law, which provides access only to union member records except where an employee gives consent or by order of the relevant tribunal.
 
2. Expanded union right of entry for discussion/recruitment purposes
 
The Coalition says unions should have access to a workplace where they have no members, but only with the agreement of employees in that enterprise.
 
3. Compulsory Arbitration where enterprise bargaining fails
 
The Bill allows Fair Work Australia to arbitrate where parties negotiating a collective agreement cannot reach agreement. The Coalition proposes that the ability to arbitrate if negotiations fail only be available where the parties genuinely consent to arbitration.
 
4. Greenfield Agreements
 
The Coalition proposes to remove the requirement for the maker of a greenfield agreement to notify unions. (The Government has already signalled similar amendments).
 
5. Transmission of Business
 
The Coalition’s views is that the existing law is vastly preferable to Labor’s proposal. The Government is also flagging amendments that would allow FWA to alter existing workplace arrangements to cater for the needs of the new owner.
 
6. Unfair Dismissal
 
There is concern amongst the independent Senators and the Coalition that the cut off figure of 15 employees is too low. Turnbull said the Coalition will negotiate with these senators to settle on a higher number.
 
Peter Anderson, Chief Executive, of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), welcomed the willingness of Senate parties to consider amendments to the Fair Work Bill, but cautioned that wider amendments are needed to address business concerns.
 
‘When the fog of politics is lifted from the IR debate, the amendments suggested by the Opposition and independent senators are useful and necessary,’ he said.
 
‘They are relatively modest — even within the government’s policy framework.
 
‘Previous industrial relations packages, for example in 1993 and 1996, saw hundreds of changes negotiated through the Senate. This should not be any different.
 
‘The Fair Work Bill does not just make half a dozen changes to industrial relations legislation. It rewrites an entire system, making literally hundreds of changes across its 800 provisions.
 
‘The six suggested Opposition amendments, which would still see the current laws tossed out, make sense, and would add some balance and workability to the new system.’
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