Heat from miners changed IR laws, Gillard admits

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Heat from miners changed IR laws, Gillard admits

The concerns of the Australian mining industry - in particular the need for interim individual agreements (ITEAs) - were reflected in changes to the Federal Government’s transitional IR legislation, Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard has confirmed.

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The concerns of the Australian mining industry - in particular the need for interim individual agreements (ITEAs) - were reflected in changes to the Federal Government’s transitional IR legislation, Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard has confirmed.

And she has promised mining companies they will continue to have an influence on the Government’s IR policies, including the content of the major Fair Work Australia legislation due by the end of next year.

Gillard today told Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) annual conference in Melbourne that the ‘heated’ exchanges she had had with the mining industry had led to AMMA’s concerns being taken into account in refining the legislation.

‘Despite a lot of understandable heat, in my mind a good outcome will be achieved,’ Gillard said.

Incorporated concerns

She said the Transition Act, which commenced on 28 March, incorporated those concerns in a number of important ways:

  • the creation of ITEAs for employees previously on AWAs
  • the commencement of award modernisation, with a requirement that each award contain a mandatory flexibility clause to allow for individual employers and employees to make genuinely individual arrangements
  • the creation of new, simple, modern awards with a limited number of award matters to ensure they are not, and do not become, large, unwieldy, inflexible documents
  • the limit of award coverage to employees earning $100,000 per year or less allowing more highly paid employees to negotiate their employment arrangements against a limited safety net of our 10 National Employment Standards.

Gillard referred to AMMA chief executive Steve Knott’s ‘generous’ acknowledgment that:

  • employers in the sector have already developed strategies to operate in the new workplace relations environment
  • the existence of ITEAs will make the transition to the new system smoother
  • the Government’s plans for a modern award system is positive for this sector
  • the mining industry is well placed to manage necessary changes.

‘Importantly, AMMA’s submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Transition Bill also acknowledged that the Rudd Government had stuck to its pre-election commitments and has no intention of stifling the flexibility and productivity of the mining sector,’ Gillard told the AMMA conference.

Industrial action

‘Other matters, like those dealing with industrial action and compliance, secondary boycotts and union right of entry, will be dealt with in our substantive workplace relations legislation which will be introduced into the Parliament later this year.'

‘But let me make it clear that just as we stuck to our promises over ITEAs, flexibility and the $100,000 award limit, we will stick to our promises on our other policy commitments.’

Gillard said that means there will be tough, clear rules on industrial action, secondary boycotts will remain regulated by the Trade Practices Act, and the current approach to right of entry will be retained.

Feedback

‘Each of you will have the opportunity to participate in award modernisation processes, to provide feedback on our proposed National Employment Standards and to have your say on the substantive workplace relations laws,’ she told the miners.

‘AMMA and major minerals and energy companies will be helping us draft our substantive workplace relations reforms through their participation on the National Workplace Relations Consultative Council and the Business Advisory Group.'

Consultation

‘Rio Tinto - represented by Stephen Creese and Paul Davies as well as Woodside - represented by Don Voelte and Ian Masson, are both members of the Government’s Business Advisory Group. Consultation seldom gets stronger than this.'

‘Continuing talks through these bodies and through other informal processes will guarantee the creation of what we have promised all along and what we will deliver: a fair and balanced industrial relations system that is flexible enough to meet the needs of the resources sector, and enables you to increase productivity and continue to make an unparalleled contribution to national prosperity.’


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