Hard-line farmers body backs WorkChoices

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Hard-line farmers body backs WorkChoices

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) has come out in support of the Federal Government's WorkChoices laws, saying farmers need 'flexibility' in dealing with their workers.

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The National Farmers Federation (NFF) has come out in support of the Federal Government's WorkChoices laws, saying farmers need 'flexibility' in dealing with their workers.

The NFF, which played a big part in the attack on stevedoring unions in the Patrick dispute - which involved training strike breakers in Dubai - said flexibility 'allows employers and employees to reach amicable agreements to mutual benefit'.

NFF President, David Crombie said farms are among Australia's most important small businesses, employing over 330,000 people direct on-farm - with one-in-six of all Australian jobs hinging on the farm sector throughout the supply chain, including retail, wholesale, processing, packaging, transport and more.

Responsive workplace

'IR reform has been good for people wanting jobs and those pursuing new career opportunities,' Crombie said. 'It has given employers flexibility to create a workplace that is relevant and responsive to current and emerging needs.

'Those benefits must be available to all businesses across the economy, including all farmers. Far from winding back IR reform, Australia needs to make it all-encompassing. This is the NFF's IR priority for the election.'

Crombie said that at present, only 30% of farm businesses - those that are incorporated, along with farms in Victoria (the State Government referred its industrial powers to the Commonwealth in 1996), the NT and ACT - directly benefit from the Government's reforms.

70% of farmers 'stranded'

'That leaves 70% of farmers stranded - either in transitional awards unable to access the real benefits of the reforms, or trapped in out-dated State industrial systems. Labor State Government's have been recalcitrant, dogmatically clinging to their antiquated industrial systems and damned the consequences.'

Crombie said the NFF was 'unconvinced' about Labor's new IR approach.

'The rhetoric is heartening, but the ACTU's insistence that the policy doesn't go far enough in winding back the reforms should send a shudder through every small business and every employee in Australia,' he said. 'Labor would have to make big concessions to appease the unions. Could, or would, a Federal Labor Government resist such pressure?'

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