FW Act in firing line


FW Act in firing line

‘Scrap collective bargaining,’ say mining employers; FWA laws are ‘WorkChoices Mark II’, says union leader.


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‘Scrap collective bargaining,’ say mining employers; FWA laws are ‘WorkChoices Mark II’, says union leader.
‘Scrap collective bargaining,’ say mining employers
Employers in the mining and resources sector have called for an end to compulsory collective bargaining, saying they need to make individual arrangements with their employees.
The Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) chief executive, Steve Knott, said the sector faced industrial disruption because the current employment agreements of tens of thousands of workers expire in the near future.
Knott said resource sector employers from across the nation have called on both sides of the political divide to modernise the nation’s existing workplace laws to better reflect the needs of the sector.
AMMA has been holding its national conference in Perth this week.
40% mining tax
Knott said a combination of international competition and recent pressure being brought onto the sector by the government’s proposed 40% mining tax meant operators needed a workplace industrial relations regime that better allowed the sector to negotiate directly with their employees in order to both attract and retain them.
He said that in order to meet these challenges employers needed to directly engage with prospective employees to negotiate the terms of their employment prior to the commencement of employment.
‘Employers and employees have to be allowed to sit down and negotiate basic things such as consultation on major workplace changes, dispute resolution, classifications and minimum wage rates, ordinary hours of work, maximum weekly hours, and annual leave,’ Knott said.
Time for laws to ‘catch up’
‘It’s time for the law to catch up to the nature of the modern employee–employer relationship.’
‘We were assured before the last election Australia would have in place a system which allowed employers and employees to undertake practical negotiations which reflected both party’s needs, while at the same time protected employees from a small minority of unscrupulous bosses who in the past used the laws to cut wages and conditions,’ he said.
‘That commitment has not been delivered by the Labor Government — and, unfortunately, this comes at a time when the sector faces the prospect of tens of thousands of workers existing employment arrangements being due to expire in coming years.’
Significant disruption
‘Unless the problems of the existing system can be fixed then we face the unenviable prospect of significant disruption in our workplaces.’
Knott said modern Australian working families and their employers face different challenges today in terms of getting the work–life balance right.
‘As such, our employees have different demands of their employers — demands which cannot be accommodated by blunt legislative instruments and proscribed (sic) and restrictive collective models,’ he said.
‘Let me make it unequivocally clear. We are glad that all sides of the political divide accept the fact that WorkChoices is now dead.’
Knott said employers in the resources sector, a sector which has been paying on average nearly double the national wage, continue to be painted as being in the same league as that small minority of employers who took advantage of the 2006 amendments to the laws.
Political agenda
‘Such activity, by activists with a political agenda, is disappointing — particularly when the resources sector is leading the charge on innovative measures to both attract, retain and remunerate its workers,’ he said.
‘But rather than resting our future on merely overcoming the errors of the past, we need our political leaders to look to the future, and put in place the legislative and regulatory frameworks that foster growth, assisting the sector to meet the challenges of the future and create more Australian jobs.’
FWA laws are ‘WorkChoices Mark II’, says union leader
A leading trade union official has claimed the Federal Opposition does not have to plan for a new IR system if they return to government, because Labor has already given the nation WorkChoices Mark II.
Both Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and shadow treasurer Joe Hockey have said in the last week that if elected to government this year they will only make changes within the framework of Fair Work Australia.
The Opposition wants to bring back individual agreements, increase workplace flexibility and remove the unfair dismissal laws from small business. However, all this would be done within the existing IR legislation.
Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Brian Boyd said that Abbott does not have to enunciate his own IR policy framework ‘because he doesn’t have to’.
WorkChoices lite
‘All Abbott has to do is “splice-in” a few add-ons to satisfy his big business connections and he has WorkChoices Mark II (ie. is off the back of WorkChoices Lite!),’ Boyd said.
‘It is a sad indictment that Federal IR Minister Julia Gillard continues to repeat the “big fib” of her government — that is “WorkChoices is dead”.’
‘Tony Abbott put the right emphasis on the issue — the “phrase” is no longer useful but the “framework” definitely is.’
‘Many voters have become disillusioned about what the current federal government has delivered. Not least is the thousands of workers across the country who are finding out the hard way that the Fair Work Act is not what it’s cracked up to be.’
Working within the framework
Boyd quoted Abbott as saying: ‘I’m not John Howard and our [IR] policy won’t be the same as it was in 2007’ and ‘the point I was trying to make [in my Budget reply speech (13/5/10] … was that we will work within Labor’s frameworks … yes we want to make it more flexible and more workable, but we really will be working within the Gillard framework that the Labor Party has put in place’.
‘Why can the arch-conservative, Howard-clone Tony Abbott so comfortably and blatantly hang his future IR policy on the Fair Work Act?’ Boyd said.
‘Why doesn’t he enunciate his own IR policy framework? Because he doesn’t have to.’
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