Employers reject Govt’s IR amendments, but unions urge ‘yes’ vote

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Employers reject Govt’s IR amendments, but unions urge ‘yes’ vote

The Government proposed amendments to its Fair Work Bill have been rejected by a major employer group, but the ACTU is urging the legislation be passed urgently.

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The Government proposed amendments to its Fair Work Bill have been rejected by a major employer group, but the ACTU is urging the legislation be passed urgently.
 
Last week, IR Minister Julia Gillard wrote to the Greens and the independent Senators offering amendments in a bid to get the numbers to pass the Bill.
 
The Government has refused to discuss the legislation with the Coalition, despite appearing to be about to do so last week, and needs the five Green and independent votes to get it through.
 
Key amendments
 
Among the amendments offered were:
  • tough privacy rules on the unions’ right to inspect the records of non-members
  • the right to seek arbitration of a refused request for flexible working arrangements if a clause permitting this is in the enterprise agreement
  • unregistered employer organisations would have the right to appear before Fair Work Australia (FWA)
  • at a transfer of a business, FWA could vary the existing industrial instrument to better fit in with the new employer
  • the BOOT to be assumed to apply to each individual employee if he/she is a member of a class of employees who have passed the test.
 
‘Not sufficient’ says Ai Group
 
Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) chief executive Heather Ridout has rejected the Government’s amendments saying they are ‘not sufficient to address industry’s concerns’.
 
‘The changes proposed to the right-of-entry laws do not remedy the core problems,’ she said.
 
‘Strengthening privacy protection does not prevent a union having access to the pay records of a non-union member who has not given permission.'
 
‘The right-of-entry amendments also do not address the proposed expansion in union access to workplaces to hold discussions with employees. The provisions of the Bill would potentially lead to union turf wars.’
 
Ridout said the amendments to the transfer of employment provisions do not go far enough.
 
‘The Bill as it stands would deter companies from employing staff of businesses which outsource work to them and encourage companies to move operations off-shore. This is a major issue for companies in sectors such as IT, catering and contract call centres.'
 
Cannot force concessions
 
‘In addition, some of the bargaining amendments are very welcome including technical amendments to reinforce the important principle that employers cannot be forced to make concessions during bargaining and to make the "better off overall test" more workable.’
 
Ridout said Ai Group is urging all political parties to adopt the outstanding amendments proposed by Ai Group to ensure that the Bill works well for both employers and employees alike.
 
However, the ACTU said the Senate must pass new industrial relations laws urgently to protect Australian workers during the economic downturn.
 
ACTU president Sharan Burrow said if the Coalition, Family First and independent Senators voted to keep WorkChoices, they would be voting to worsen job security and reduce workers’ rights in the downturn.
 
‘Crunch time’, says ACTU
 
‘It’s crunch time for the Senate to give workers job security in the economic downturn through stronger protection against unfair dismissal,’ she said.
 
‘It’s more essential than ever that these laws are passed to protect employees from the slash and burn approach we have seen from companies like Pacific Brands and Telstra.’
 
Burrow said some of the amendments proposed by the Coalition and two cross bench Senators would be worse than WorkChoices.
 
‘Senator Fielding’s proposed changes to exempt small businesses from the laws would leave more than three million workers, and their families, worse off at a time when they can least afford it.'
 
‘Under the changes, these workers would have less protection from being unfairly sacked, no right to union support in the workplace, and no help from the independent umpire to get better wages.’
 
Business ‘never satisfied’
 
Burrow said the Senators should ignore the lobbying from big business — ‘they will never be satisfied’.
 
‘There are some in the business community that just want a free hand to take advantage of the economic downturn to sack workers and slash wages and conditions,’ she said.
 
‘But the business lobby should be careful what they wish for, as cutting wages and jobs will only serve to reduce consumer demand and worsen the economic slowdown,’ Burrow said.
 
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