Federal IR news: IR Ministers to meet; Gillard on arbitration

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Federal IR news: IR Ministers to meet; Gillard on arbitration

IR Ministers to hold meeting on Hockey’s doorstep; Only ‘significant’ disputes will be arbitrated, says Gillard.

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IR Ministers to hold meeting on Hockey’s doorstep; Only ‘significant’ disputes will be arbitrated, says Gillard.

IR Ministers to hold meeting on Hockey’s doorstep

The State industrial relations Ministers have decided to call a ministerial council meeting - because Federal Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, won't do so.

And to make it easy for Hockey to attend, they will hold the meeting across the road from his electoral office in North Sydney.

No meetings for a year

The State Ministers say that, despite their requests, Hockey has not called a council meeting for almost a year. The previous Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, also refused to call any council meetings in more than nine months leading up to the WorkChoices legislation.

Normally, the Workplace Relations Ministers Council meets every six months to provide a forum for the fair exchange of ideas and material between State, Territory and Commonwealth Ministers.

Victorian IR Minister, Rob Hulls, called on Hockey to attend the next meeting 'given the significant concerns working families have about the impact of WorkChoices'.

'The last meeting was convened by the former Minister, Kevin Andrews, the day before last year's Grand Final,' Hulls said. 'Why? Because obviously he didn't want any media attention.

Hockey 'in hiding'

'But since Hockey has been at the helm, he has been in hiding, refusing to meet with his State Government counterparts.'

Hulls said the meetings were probably more important for Victoria than the other States because of Victoria's interlinking with the Federal system.

'I think it is about time that Hockey listened to what State Governments have been saying: WorkChoices is unfair and is hurting working Australians,' he said.

No excuse

'There is no excuse for Hockey not to come. We cannot make it more convenient for him. The meeting will be held in his electorate of North Sydney - across the road from his electorate office.'

As well as WorkChoices, the meeting will discuss a number of important occupational health and safety issues and workers' compensation issues.

In particular, the meeting will discuss:

  • How best to achieve a system that effectively covers all Australian workers.
  • The inadequacies of the Federal Government's Workplace Authority.
  • The development of better protections for vulnerable workers, including many women, young workers and the low-paid.

Related

Andrews cancels yet another IR meeting with the States

Only 'significant' disputes will be arbitrated, says Gillard

Compulsory arbitration of industrial disputes under Labor's IR policy would be limited to those threatening safety, health or the national economy - and the rest will just have to sort it out for themselves.

Labor's IR spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, confirmed this at a press conference this week.

Gillard was asked: 'Under what circumstances would compulsory arbitration be treated under the Labor system?'

'There are a very limited number of circumstances where you need the industrial umpire to step in and resolve a dispute,' she replied.

Safety valve

'It's the sort of safety valve that has always been in our industrial relations system. If you have got a dispute that is threatening safety or health or the national economy, an intractable dispute that is causing significant harm, they are the kind of circumstances in which the industrial umpire would be able to resolve the dispute.

'But in the ordinary course people who are collectively bargaining at their enterprise level, all of that bargaining will happen at the enterprise level, they will either strike an agreement or not strike an agreement.'

'Significant rigour'

Gillard said it would be 'a very, very small subset of cases where there is really significant rigour, significant harm associated with a dispute' where arbitration would occur.

'In the ordinary dispute, the bargaining would just run its course; people would agree or they may not agree, that is a matter for them but there would be no prospect of arbitration,' she said.

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