Employers 'bamboozled' over WorkChoices, say State Ministers

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Employers 'bamboozled' over WorkChoices, say State Ministers

Employers are confused about the WorkChoices laws despite millions of dollars spent on education campaigns, because the Federal Government keeps 'moving the goalposts', NSW IR Minister, John Della Bosca believes.

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Employers are confused about the WorkChoices laws despite millions of dollars spent on education campaigns, because the Federal Government keeps 'moving the goalposts', NSW IR Minister, John Della Bosca believes.

And the Qld Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, John Mickel says employers are 'bamboozled' by the WorkChoices legislation, with the Qld State Ombudsman, Don Brown, receiving 6,000 calls in four months on the issue.

'A third of them have been from employers unable to fathom WorkChoices,' Mickel said.

'Enormous confusion'

Mickel said the Federal Government's decision to allow some Australian Workplace Agreements to operate without the fairness test, while post May 7 2007 AWAs were required to pass the fairness test, was causing enormous confusion.

Della Bosca said in 2005/2006, the Federal Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) handed over $9m to 17 peak industry organisations to deliver their Employer Advisor Program, with a further $20m allocated over the following two years.

'This funding was in addition to the $121m wasted by the Howard Government on their advertising blitz that has failed to convince Australian families WorkChoices is good for them,' Della Bosca said.

'The education programs were supposed to help businesses understand and implement Work Choices - and with this high level of investment you would expect most employers would be experts.

Fairness test a 'hoax'

'But nothing could be further from the truth - the Howard Government keeps moving the goal posts on them - the fairness test hoax is the latest layer of red tape they are being forced to grapple with.

'A recent Sensis survey of small and medium businesses revealed a staggering 45% of employers were unaware of their responsibilities under the test.'

In his first quarterly report, Ombudsman Brown said that in the absence of retrospective application of the fairness test it followed that the Federal legislation permitted unfair AWAs to continue unchanged, many of which had years to run.

'Competitive unfairness'

'A further serious concern is the competitive disadvantage this creates for business,' Brown said. 'Callers to the Queensland Workplace Rights Office have been both confused and angered by this situation, which amounts to legally enforceable competitive unfairness.

'This applies across all Queensland businesses, however the problem seems to be far more acute in the competitive industries of contract security, contract cleaning, labour-hire and like industries.'

Brown said that as an example, pre the fairness test, the security contracting industry was regulated by either the State Award or by collective State Registered Certified Agreements.

Seven kinds of regulation

'As at May 7 2007, the operational date for the fairness test, the industry is regulated by seven forms of regulation producing differing outcomes on wages and conditions, six of them the product of Federal legislation which purportedly set out to simplify industrial relations in Australia', he said.

Brown said the fairness test itself was a cause of ongoing confusion.

'Parties to AWAs are confronted with a 42-page 'fairness test implementation policy guide' complete with three pages of diagrams which, according many employers, are difficult to follow', he said.

Brown said the 6,000 calls received involved unfair dismissal, recovery of wages, coercion, harassment and bullying, as well as legislative confusion.

Related

140,000 AWAs still in fairness test queue, but system 'dead'

Business not let down by fairness test, says Howard
 

 

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