Govt critics fail to change 'soft' Independent  Contractors Bill

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Govt critics fail to change 'soft' Independent Contractors Bill

Despite opposition from Government hardliners that it is too 'soft', the Federal Government's Independent Contractors legislation will be introduced to Parliament tomorrow (Thursday, 22 June).

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Despite opposition from Government hardliners that it is too 'soft', the Federal Government's Independent Contractors legislation will be introduced to Parliament tomorrow (Thursday, 22 June).

The legislation was approved by the Joint Coalition Party room yesterday. Opponents within the Government object to the Transport Workers Union retaining its right to represent owner drivers in NSW and Vic in their negotiations with the major transport companies.

Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews has said there will be a review of this situation next year. Andrews said the Bill will protect the right of Australia's independent contractors to be 'truly independent, preventing them from being roped into state laws which effectively force them to be "employees"'.

Freedom of association

He said the protections in the Bill build upon the rights of Independent Contractors contained in WorkChoices, under the freedom of association provisions.

State protections to continue

As previously announced by Andrews, the Bill will maintain the status of Textile, Clothing and Footwear contracted outworkers as employees under state legislation.

Andrews restated that the Bill will not override the existing protections for owner-drivers in NSW and Vic, the only two States with such legislation.

Other issues

Andrews said the terms of reference of the review into this situation are yet to be finalised. He said the intention will be to rationalise these laws with the aim of achieving national consistency.

Meanwhile the ILO conference has passed a resolution in support of independent contractors which reads in part: 'National policy for protection of workers in an employment relationship should not interfere with true civil and commercial relationships ...'

Vindication

The Independent Contractors of Australia (ICA) is claiming this is a vindication of its long-fought campaign to secure independent contractors' rights.

'This has now been achieved in a way that gives us international credibility,' said Ken Phillips, ICA Executive Director.

Phillips said the broad thrust of the proposed Independent Contractors Act is 'in accord with this new ILO recommendation'.

'If the owner-drivers exclusion is removed, the government should be in a position to claim that the Act is consistent with the ILO Recommendation,' he said.

Public consultation coming

The Federal Government will in early 2007 release a discussion paper and conduct 'public consultation' regarding a review of Australia-wide laws, particularly relating to owner/drivers in NSW/Victoria. They might look at outworkers too.

See the DEEWR website for more details.

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