Gulf as wide as ever on industrial relations:  brereton

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Gulf as wide as ever on industrial relations: brereton

The Coalition’s "new look" industrial relations policy "reinforces a fundamental difference between the Government’s IR model and the Coalition’s alternative", the Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Laurie Brereton has claimed.

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The Coalition’s "new look" industrial relations policy "reinforces a fundamental difference between the Government’s IR model and the Coalition’s alternative", the Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Laurie Brereton has claimed.

The Minister has claimed that "under the Federal Government’s system ... the independent umpire - the Industrial Relations Commission - applies stringent tests to workplace agreements, measuring them against existing comprehensive award entitlements and applying the no disadvantage test, to ensure workers are no worse off".

According to the Government, under these tests:

  • employees must be fully informed and consulted and understand the terms of the agreement;
  • the majority of employees must agree to be bound by the agreement and enter into it without duress;
  • there can be no discrimination on the basis of whether or not the employee belongs to a union; and
  • vulnerable employees such as women, young people, and those whose first language is not English are given particular consideration.

The agreements are only certified by the Commission if they pass these tests.

The Minister attacked the Coalition policy saying its intention was to "neck the industrial umpire, abolish these tests, and replace the existing arrangements with individual contracts which (it) ... terms Australian Workplace Agreements" (Workplace Relations Act 1996). The Minister dismissed such agreements as providing "secret arrangements filed with (the) ... Employment Advocate, who in turn will have no power to compel employers to apply minimum wages and conditions" (Workplace Agreements Act 1993 - s7 Effect of workplace agreement on accrued entitlements.) (Workplace Relations Act 1996- s509Exemption from minimum rate of pay)

In response the Opposition Spokesman for Industrial Relations, Mr Peter Reith, has argued that the Commission’s role would be important in setting award conditions, which would set the floor for enterprise agreements so it would still be an "independent umpire".

Australian Business has welcomed aspects of the Coalition’s IR policy as a ‘step in the right direction’. However, it has warned that a future Coalition Government needs to be willing to adjust, in consultation with employers, aspects of its policy, in particular some of the elements of the ‘no disadvantage test’, to facilitate the needs of business.

 

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