Govt’s IR details thrill some, appal others


Govt’s IR details thrill some, appal others

Business has welcomed the Federal Government’s WorkChoices IR changes, but they have been savagely attacked by the ALP and the trade union movement, and church groups have expressed some reservations.


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Business has welcomed the Federal Government’s WorkChoices IR changes, but they have been savagely attacked by the ALP and the trade union movement, and church groups have expressed some reservations. 

It's take the job or take the sack , says the ALP 

Opposition leader Kim Beazley said John Howard has revealed his ‘WorkChoice’ for Australians – take the job or take the sack.  

Howard’s extreme industrial relations changes will push Australia down the low wage road, he said. 

‘For four years John Howard has promised a barbecue stopper,’ Beazley said. ‘Well, here’s Howard’s barbecue stopper. Those weekend barbecues will stop as workers are obliged to negotiate away their weekends, hours and penalty rates under this legislation.’ 

‘This is very family unfriendly legislation that John Howard is proposing.

‘It will have a substantial impact on those in a weak bargaining position in the workforce, particularly young people, women and the semi-skilled, and of course in an economic downturn it will have a major impact on everybody.’ 

Beazley said when Labor came to office he would abolish the Fair Pay Commission and put that power in the hands of the Industrial Relations Commission to be exercised publicly and independently of government.   

ACTU says workers will be worse off 

The ACTU said the Government’s industrial relations plans are ‘all about pushing workers on to individual contracts (AWAs) that can cut people’s take-home pay and remove conditions like overtime, penalty rates, redundancy pay, rostering protections and public holidays’.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the Government would like to see every Australian worker on an individual contract and under its new work laws all the power will be with the employer.

‘The Government’s plans mean AWA individual contracts will not be underpinned by the award conditions and that means that things like standard working hours, penalty rates, overtime payments and redundancy pay will no longer be guaranteed,’ she said.

‘Mean and tricky’, says Della Bosca

NSW Minister for Industrial Relations, John Della Bosca, said ‘this is John Howard at his meanest and trickiest.

‘To dress this up as a ‘'softening'’ of his stance is nothing short of a lie: It is the same ugly package.  

‘The independent umpire has been nobbled, the minimum standards are meaningless and Australian workers and their families are about to lose hard-won entitlements and fairness that we’ve taken for granted for generations,’ he said.

Churches concerned about fairness and balance

The executive officer of the Australian Catholic Commission for Employment Relations, John Ryan, said the new system did not appear to address fundamental concerns about ‘fairness and balance’. 

He said young workers without bargaining power, and new employees, would especially be targeted by the changes. 

Peter Jensen, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney said workplace changes affected the sanctity of Sunday and risked turning workers into robots. 

He said he was concerned about the ‘need for preserving shared time for children, families, relationships for all Australians. That’s what life is about, not merely the economy. Without shared time we may as well be robots. I wait anxiously to see what a new workplace relations system will mean for our community.’ 

Miners give it 10/10

Australian Mines and Metals Association acting Chief Executive Simon Billing said WorkChoices represents ‘a move away from short term workplace policy making and provides a system which will future proof Australian business and provide the flexibility necessary to complete in a global market’.

‘AMMA has long advocated the benefits of a simpler national system of industrial regulation. WorkChoices delivers a simpler national system for corporate Australia and will break the gridlock imposed by having six competing industrial relations system in Australia,’ he said.

‘We encourage State Governments to adopts the Victorian approach, cede their industrial powers and cooperatively embrace a national approach.’

He said the Minister’s new essential services powers will ensure that ‘a principle of a deal is a deal returns to the industrial landscape.' 

End of the world as we know it, says AMWU

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union said the changes represent the destruction of the foundations of the system that has underpinned equality and fairness in the Australian workforce.

The National Secretary, Doug Cameron said that changes removed choice from workers, with the Government ensuring that individual contracts would be forced onto workers across many industries.  

Cameron said that the level of detail the Government has gone to in order to destroy workers ability to collectively bargain for their rights and conditions, was a shocking misuse of the Government’s power in the Senate.

He said the AMWU will fight this legislation in workshops and in the community in the lead up to the next federal election election.  

Overregulation remains a concern

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry warmly welcomed the details of the workplace relations reform package, but warned that employers and employer bodies remain wary of excessive government regulation of employer and employee relationships.

‘The Government’s package scores nine out of ten for policy direction, and seven out of ten on the announced detail,’ said Peter Hendy, ACCI Chief Executive

‘An excessive level of regulation of employer and employee relationships will remain, as governments progressively replace a regulated arbitration system with a regulated bargaining system and a legislated safety net.

‘Some of the regulation in this package is due to transitional provisions necessary to move from dual Commonwealth / State laws to a national system.

‘However much is also due to the decision of government (as in 1993 and 1996) to keep industrial awards and tribunals and provide a broader safety net with considerable in-built retentions of existing wages and employment conditions.

‘Stripped of claim and counter claim, the reality will be that when these new laws commence, employers and employees will still be bound by almost all existing employment regulation in awards but will have important additional choices and incentives to do better through workplace agreements.’  

Responsibilities and opportunities for business

Heather Ridout, Chief Executive Australian Industry Group, said the statement will assist business to understand their responsibilities and opportunities under the new system.

‘At the same time significant additional safeguards have been put in place to protect employees and to promote fairness and balance and these should be welcomed.'

Business Council welcomes flexibility

Business Council of Australia President Hugh Morgan said the changes would provide greater flexibility for employers and employees, remove barriers to job creation and simplify an unnecessarily complex system.

‘Over the past year, our productivity has fallen by 1.4%, our worst performance for 18 years,’ he said.  

‘The proposed reforms continue the move toward greater workplace flexibility and productivity, the importance of which has been recognised and acted upon by both Coalition and Labor Governments over the past 20 years.’

Builders say its evolutionary, not revolutionary

Increased productivity without any reduction in workers’ rights will flow from WorkChoices, according to Master Builders Australia.

Wilhelm Harnisch, Chief Executive Officer, said the release of the details about WorkChoices shows a balanced and evolutionary approach, and not revolutionary, to general workplace reforms.

‘The inefficiencies, lack of productivity and, sadly, violence in the building industry are all too common and proof of how the current IR system is failing employers and workers alike,’ he said.

‘Driving genuine bargains that will help both employers and employees will take the focus away from matters that seem central to the unions but which stand in the way of productive outcomes.

The fuss they make over such matters as union picnic days and computers and other perks for union delegates is extraordinary and takes away from the real purpose of bargaining which is to generate productive arrangements that provide win/win outcomes for employers and employees.’


Federal IR changes 2005  


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