'Explain yourself or face the consequences', NSW IRC warns Andrews

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'Explain yourself or face the consequences', NSW IRC warns Andrews

Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews is facing potential fines or prison over a press release in which he said the NSW IRC had no interest in promoting national consistent and fair minimum wages and implied it was 'playing politics'.

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Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews is facing potential fines or prison over a press release in which he said the NSW IRC had no interest in promoting national consistent and fair minimum wages and implied it was 'playing politics'.

The Commission is demanding he explain the press release at a hearing on 5 June.

If his explanation is not satisfactory, there is power in the Commission in relation to contempt of the Commission. Penalties available against individuals are a fine of $5,500 or six months jail.

Andrews' press release followed an instruction by a Full Bench of the Commission that Andrews obey an instruction to indicate a counter offer to the unions' State Wage Case claim of a 4% wage increase for NSW workers.

Withdraw right to intervene

The Full Bench suggested if he did not the Commission would withdraw Andrews' right to intervene in the case.

Employer groups have been given the same warning: they must indicate where they stand on the unions' claim.

In response Andrews issued a press release, which is on his Ministerial website, which said: 'The NSW Industrial Relations Commission (NSWIRC) has today demonstrated that it has no interest in promoting national consistency and fairness in the way minimum wages are set across Australia.

'The State Commissions in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania have all granted leave for the Commonwealth to make a submission to their respective state wage cases. The NSW IRC has strongly indicated that it will only allow the Commonwealth to participate if it nominates a specific minimum wage increase.

Adversarial approach

'By placing conditions on the Commonwealth's involvement in the case, the NSWIRC is simply promoting a heavily adversarial approach to adjusting minimum wages.'

Andrews said it had been the practice for many years that State Commissions have recognised the need for consistency by closely following the minimum wage determinations of the Australian Industrial Relations Commissions (AIRC).

'This stands in stark contrast to the position the NSW IRC is taking now,' he said.

Playing politics

'Workers in NSW must now be hoping that the NSW IRC is not in the process of playing politics with their wages and conditions.'

The Commission has now written to all parties in the proceedings, and to Andrews, saying that at its hearings on 5 June it will hear 'any submission by any party' on the press release.

'At that hearing the Intervenor [nominally Andrews but in fact his legal representative] will be requested to make submissions on the content of the press release,' the Commission said in its letter.

Contempt of Commission

The NSW Industrial Relations Act 1996 - Sect 180 - says:

Contempt of Commission - offence

(1) A person in contempt of the Commission is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty: 500 penalty units in the case of a corporation or, in any other case, 50 penalty units or imprisonment for 6 months, or both.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), conduct is a contempt only if the same conduct in relation to the Supreme Court would be a contempt of the Supreme Court.

(3) Proceedings for an offence against this section may be taken only before the Commission in Court Session.

A penalty point is currently $110.

Press release

The Andrews press release can be found here

Related

NSWIRC threatens to toss Commonwealth out of State Wage Case

 

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