Federal sacking law delay doesn't change minds

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Federal sacking law delay doesn't change minds

A delay in the Senate debate on proposed amendments to Federal Termination of Employment laws has not weakened ALP and Greens opposition to the Bill, but Democrats are undecided on what amendments to support.

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A delay in the Senate debate on proposed amendments to Federal Termination of Employment laws has not weakened ALP and Greens opposition to the Bill, but Democrats are undecided on what amendments to support.

The Senate was due to debate the Federal Workplace Relations Amendment Termination of Employment Bill yesterday, June 19, but it was now listed for debate next Tuesday.

However, the ALP and the Democrats weren't certain the debate would go ahead as planned next week either.

Regardless, the ALP and Greens would oppose the entire Bill in the Senate, while the Democrats indicated they were still deciding what amendments to accept and oppose.

Consultation and substance

Greater uniformity of national termination of employment laws, which is proposed by the Bill, was not a problem for the ALP, Federal Shadow Workplace Relations Minister Robert McClelland told WorkplaceInfo.

But only after comprehensive consultation with state Governments to iron out the impact on each jurisdiction, he added.

The ALP would like to see a new Bill that increased emphasis on substantive fairness rather than procedural technicalities, and increased emphasis on reinstatement remedies as opposed to adjustments to monetary compensation.

A new Bill should also allow small business employees to argue before the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) why their case for unfair termination should be heard, he said.

The Bill in its current form seeks to allow the AIRC to dismiss, without a hearing, a small business employee's unfair termination application on the grounds it is vexatious, frivolous, lacking substance and is beyond jurisdiction.

If the Bill ended up as a double dissolution trigger the ALP wasn't fazed. Not many people would support a Government that attempted to reduce basic employment rights of individual employees, McClelland said.

Uncertainty

If the ALP doesn't support the Bill the Coalition will have to rely on the Democrats and other minor parties to get it passed.

A spokesperson for Democrats Federal Workplace Relations representative, Andrew Murray, told WorkplaceInfo the Democrats were reluctant to comment on the Bill and its ramifications because it hadn't gone before the Party Room.

The Democrats were not sure which elements of the Bill they would support and which they would reject, the spokesperson said. They were waiting to see what the Government was going to do with the amendments - it was a ‘complicated process'.

The Bill was not a double dissolution trigger, the spokesperson added.

There were double dissolution Bills before the Senate, which needed to be dealt with before the Termination Bill made it to the debate stage, the spokesperson said.

However, in the Australian Democrats' Report Inquiry into the Bill the Democrats supported the central proposition of the Bill to extend coverage of the Federal Workplace Relations Act. But would not support the following:

  • a reduction in compensation for small business employees;
  • an increase in the qualifying period before a small business employee can make an unfair dismissal claim; and
  • changes to some of the criteria the AIRC must consider when determining unfair dismissals, especially proposals that seek to reduce the AIRC's discretion.

Weakening rights

The Greens on the other hand reject the Bill outright. A spokesperson for Greens Workplace Relations Representative, Kerry Nettle, told WorkplaceInfo that the Bill weakened employee rights and access to fair termination.

Although extending the coverage of the termination laws nationally might seem to have some advantages, Greens could never support a unitary system under the current Federal Government, the spokesperson said.

Nothing this Government introduced advanced worker protections, the spokesperson added.

Happy to listen to alternatives

A spokesperson for the Federal Workplace Relations Minister, Tony Abbot, told WorkplaceInfo the Minister had already consulted with the States at the Workplace Relations Ministers' Council.

However, the Minister was always happy to sit down and listen to amendments suggested by the ALP and other parties, she said.

The Bill in its current form covered the field and reduced the burden on small business, she added.

According to Abbot's spokesperson the Bill would be debated next Tuesday.

 

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