Future reforms - wr act


Future reforms - wr act

Further industrial relations reforms are on the agenda according to the federal Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business, Mr Peter Reith


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Further industrial relations reforms are on the agenda according to the federal Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business, Mr Peter Reith.

The Minister, in a recent address to the Australian Mines and Metals Association, outlined the broad range of reform initiatives being planned for the Government's second term in office. He indicated in his presentation that the legislative reforms will be presented to Parliament in the middle of the year.

The reforms will include:

  • simplifying the process for approving agreements which will have the effect of reducing transaction costs and unnecessary paperwork;
  • making workers more accountable for the decision to take industrial action by implementing a system of secret ballots to determine employee support for industrial action;
  • providing for cooling off periods and mediation options in circumstances where protected industrial action during the making of an enterprise agreement is protracted or costly;
  • maintaining the system of awards and continuing the process of award simplification;
  • renaming the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to the Workplace Relations Commission and introducing contemporary management practices into the structure of the Commission, including greater accountability;
  • giving formal legislative recognition to the provision of voluntary mediation services in industrial disputes as an alternative or a supplement to the processes of the Commission. It is envisaged that mediation services will be provided by accredited persons or bodies outside the Commission;
  • ensuring union membership is voluntary and strengthening laws to prevent closed shops, direct or indirect preference to unionists and discrimination or victimisation against workers based on their union membership status;
  • amending the right of entry provisions in the Workplace Relations Act 1996to ensure the proper role of a union is as a service provider and not as a quasi-inspector; and
  • legislate with regard to the accountability of registered organisations.

The Minister stated that he intends to consult formally with employer organisations and unions on the proposed changes, as well as with state governments, key employers, small business representatives and key community groups.

The Minister concluded by saying:

"The Workplace Relations Acthas delivered considerable progress in the evolutionary reform process and is providing substantial benefits for both employers and employees as well as the Australian economy more generally.

"In a global environment of ever increasing competitive pressures and in the face of continuing structural and technological change, all governments need continuously to review how their workplace relations systems can be improved.

"This is not simply a challenge for governments, but equally a challenge for managers to use the opportunities available to introduce the strategic workplace reforms which are needed at their particular workplaces.

"Many have done so, but others have yet to take up the challenge. I trust that the prospect of the further reform which I have detailed will encourage many more to take up the challenge we have offered."

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