Govt ‘hypocritical’ over WorkChoices, says Bishop

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Govt ‘hypocritical’ over WorkChoices, says Bishop

The Opposition has accused the Federal Government of hypocrisy over its IR policy, saying WorkChoices will operate longer under Labor than it did under the Howard Government.

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The Opposition has accused the Federal Government of hypocrisy over its IR policy, saying WorkChoices will operate longer under Labor than it did under the Howard Government.

Shadow IR spokeswoman Julie Bishop said IR Minister Julia Gillard ‘scaremongers’ over WorkChoices while retaining the system.

‘It is rank hypocrisy for Julia Gillard to retain Workchoices while at the same time continuing to scaremonger about these laws,’ Bishop said.

‘Unemployment fell to the lowest levels in more than 34 years under Howard Government economic and workplace relations reforms, and Labor constantly criticises these reforms while claiming credit for any of the benefits,’ she said.

Telstra threat

Bishop said it is also unacceptable for Gillard to threaten Telstra and demand that the company give in to demands from the union bosses, including attempts to negotiate illegal side agreements.

Telstra is refusing to deal with unions and has announced it may keep many of its 21,000 workers on AWAs after they expire, while paying them an annual wage increase.

Gillard said yesterday that Telstra workers had a right to join and be represented by unions, and accused the company of clinging to the Howard government's WorkChoices system.

‘I don't think it's in Telstra's interests to be seen to be the company which is still trying to implement WorkChoices,’ Gillard said.

Union rights

‘In a democracy if people want to be a member of a union, then the union's got a right to represent them, and companies . . . should recognise that.’

However, Telstra said it would ignore Gillard’s advice and would continue with its plans.

‘Everything we are doing is entirely consistent with Labor Party policy and the law, including exploring employee collective agreements which would, of course, be subject to an employee vote,’ company spokesman Martin Barr said.

‘Around half of Australia's top companies have employee collective agreements.’

Done nothing wrong

Telstra's head of public affairs Phil Burgess said the company had done nothing wrong.

‘We simply want everyone who wants an opportunity to be on a performance-based contract to have that opportunity,’ he said.

‘There's no need to have someone between us and the employee. So this is not about AWAs or unions. It's really about how a modern company relates to their employees. And if people want to work harder, they can make more money.'

‘If someone is trying to squeeze the bitter lemon (of Work Choices) it's not us.’

Clear and transparent

Gillard said the Government's new laws would be clear and transparent.

‘It will certainly say to Telstra and to other companies that if a majority of the employees want to try collectively bargaining, then the employer has to join them at the bargaining table and have a go at it in good faith,’ she said.


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