Govt tries to ‘arbitrate’ its IR Bill past Greens, independents

News

Govt tries to ‘arbitrate’ its IR Bill past Greens, independents

The Federal Government is banking on getting its IR laws through Parliament by offering a range of amendments to the Greens and the independent Senators that greatly extend the arbitration powers of Fair Work Australia (FWA).

WantToReadMore

Get unlimited access to all of our content.

The Federal Government is banking on getting its IR laws through Parliament by offering a range of amendments to the Greens and the independent Senators that greatly extend the arbitration powers of Fair Work Australia (FWA).
 
However, the new powers do not extend to arbitrating industrial disputes, but to resolving workplace differences between employers, workers and unions.
 
An eight-page letter sent yesterday to the Greens and Senators Fielding and Xenophon offers some radical changes to the Fair Work Bill.
 
Under the current Bill, a worker’s right to flexible working hours is entirely dependent on the employer agreeing, with no recourse if he/she refuses.
 
FWA to rule on ‘flexibility’ disputes
 
However, under an amendment, provided the enterprise agreement allows for the right to request flexible work arrangements, a worker will be able to turn to the FWA for a ruling on the dispute if the boss says no.
 
The BOOT is also being altered. Employers have expressed concern that the requirement to make workers better off overall would be complicated and time consuming if it applied to each individual worker in the workplace. The BOOT will now apply to classes of employees rather than individuals.
 
FWA will also have a more powerful role in greenfield sites and transfers of businesses.
 
Pick a union for greenfield sites
 
The current Bill says an employer setting up a Greenfield agreement has to notify all the unions that may have coverage at the site. Under the new amendments, the FWA will be able to determine the union entitled to represent the majority of employees, and other unions will not have to be informed.
 
FWA can also rule that it is in the public interest that the agreement be approved.
 
The Fair Work Bill in its current state says that when a business is transferred to a new owner, the existing workplace conditions and agreements also transfer. However, under the amended Bill, FWA would be able to order the instrument covering the workers be modified to fit better with the new enterprise.
 
Privacy measures over workers’ records
 
The Government is also moving to allay concerns about unions having access to the records of non-members, with IR Minister Julia Gillard saying suggestions made by the Privacy Commissioner would be taken into the Bill.
 
Gillard is this afternoon meeting with the Greens and the independents in an attempt to get their approval for the amendments and the overall Bill.
 
Senate debate on the Bill will begin today and last through this week and next, when it is expected to be put to a vote.
 
However, the views of the Greens and independents will be known well before then and the vote should be a formality.
 
Coalition deciding position
 
The stance of the Coalition on the legislation should be known later today.
 
Shadow Cabinet decided last night to put the matter to the party room to hear the views of Members.
 
The Coalition is split, with some hardliners such as Senator Nick Minchin and former treasurer Peter Costello wanting the Bill to be opposed.
 
However, others are disinclined to have to face another WorkChoices battle at the next election.
 
The Government amendments, if accepted by the Greens and independents, may be enough to save their honour and allow the Bill to pass easily.
 
Post details