IR Bill — pressure from employers and unions

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IR Bill — pressure from employers and unions

Employer and industry bodies are continuing their attacks on the Government’s IR Bill, with the miners again asking for the right to employ strike-breakers, and retailers saying there will be mass job losses. Meanwhile the ACTU says attempts by the Liberal Party and employer bodies to portray unions as ‘bogeys’ are examples of the same tired old pro-WorkChoices posturing that the Australian public rejected at the last election.

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Employer and industry bodies are continuing their attacks on the Government’s IR Bill, with the miners again asking for the right to employ strike-breakers, and retailers saying there will be mass job losses.
 
Meanwhile, the ACTU says attempts by the Liberal Party and employer bodies to portray unions as ‘bogeys’ are examples of the same tired old pro-WorkChoices posturing that the Australian public rejected at the last election.
 
Employers build up pressure for changes to IR Bill
 
Employer and industry bodies are continuing their attacks on the Government’s IR Bill, with the miners again asking for the right to employ strike-breakers, and retailers saying there will be mass job losses.
 
The Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) has described elements of the Bill as ‘union power grabs’.
 
‘It stinks’
 
AMMA chief executive Steve Knott said his organisation supports the analysis by Senator Fielding that the so-called Fair Work Bill ‘is anything but fair, it stinks’.
 
‘The Senator’s comments reflect the growing concern that the Government is giving union powers priority ahead of helping employers and workers to keep jobs.’
 
‘Some of these powers totally override individual rights and are almost police-like, such as the right of unions to access the personal records of non-union members.’
 
Bleak outlook for jobs
 
Knott said a recent survey of AMMA members on anticipated redundancies highlighted a bleak outlook for 2009 with a staggering 55% of companies planning more job cuts this year and another 21% reporting possible redundancies in the next 12 months.
 
‘If the Fair Work Bill is left unchanged, it will increase business costs and lead to more job losses,’ he said.
 
Among the amendments demanded by AMMA are that unions can only be bargaining agents with the express written approval by employees, and not by default; the right for employers to decline to make agreements, and the right of employers to engage ‘alternative labour’ so production can be maintained.
 
Retailers forecast job losses
 
The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) said the proposed new industrial relations laws would force over 65% of small retailers to decrease employment levels and many to close their doors.
 
The ARA also wants the new modernised retail award, due to come into operation on 1 January 2010, to be deferred for 12 months.
 
ARA executive director Richard Evans said in the current economic climate small retailers wouldn’t cope with labour costs associated with the planned introduction of the Fair Work Bill in July, followed by the Modern Retail Award coming into effect six months later.
 
‘No other economy in the world is introducing new labour laws in the context of the global financial crisis and this Government policy is fraught with danger to the retail sector,’ Evans said.
 
Shops will close
 
‘Retailers have clearly indicated the effect will be less jobs and retail shop closures.'
 
‘To save jobs and small retail businesses we’re urging the Government to recommend the AIRC to defer the introduction of the Modern Retail Award for 12 months.’
 
Evans said an ARA poll of members showed the new IR laws will force over 82% of small retailers to restructure their workforce.
 
‘For many of the 1.5 million retail employees in Australia this means either less work or no work,’ he said.
 
‘As well as reducing staff levels, over 52% of small retailers indicated they will restructure staff rosters and a further 26% will restructure employment types to cope with increased wage bills.'
 
‘Working families who are struggling to keep their small business’ doors open simply cannot afford the Fair Work Bill’s restrictions on casual and penalty rate entitlements or the Modern Retail Award’s average 14% increased wage bill.’
 
Union turf wars
 
NSW Business Chamber said it is particularly concerned about the areas of the legislation that will impact negatively on business productivity and cooperative relationships between employers and employees.
 
NSWBC is concerned that the new right-of-entry rules will bring back the bad old days of union turf wars — which cause serious harm to business and rarely bring direct benefits to employees either.
 
It is also concerned that under the new right-of-entry rules, unions will be able to inspect the personal and employment details of employees who are not union members.
 
NSWBC CEO Kevin MacDonald said the changes to the transmission of business rules will make it more difficult in these tough economic times to buy, sell or restructure business.
 
He said changes to agreement making will mean that not only will businesses be forced into bargaining with the union — even when no employee has asked for the union, but that the process will be long and complex.
 
MacDonald said that if the Government proceeded with the changes it will exceed its mandate from the last election.
 
 
Attempts to blacken unions is pro-WorkChoices posturing: ACTU
 
Meanwhile, the ACTU says attempts by the Liberal Party and employer bodies to portray unions as ‘bogeys’ are examples of the same tired old pro-WorkChoices posturing that the Australian public rejected at the last election.
 
Employer organisations and the Coalition have put up amendments to the Fair Work Bill on such matters as union right of entry, unfair dismissals and the right of unions to inspect the records of non-members.
 
The ACTU says these amendments would seriously undermine workers’ protections and leave WorkChoices largely intact.
 
Ridiculous scaremongering
 
ACTU president Sharan Burrow said Australians overwhelmingly endorse the role of unions in defending workers’ rights and ensuring workplaces are fair, and the ‘ridiculous scaremongering’ is being used to water down important elements of the Bill.
 
‘Instead of unsubstantiated allegations and myths, any amendments to the Labor Government’s Fair Work Bill should be based on sound arguments that can be demonstrated to improve both fairness and productivity,’ she said.
 
Burrow said there is simply no evidence that modest unfair dismissal laws are a disincentive to hiring.
 
‘This is an argument that has been had time and time again in the Senate and there is no evidence to support any significant adverse impact on jobs from unfair dismissal laws,’ she said.
 
Workers deserve to be treated fairly
 
Burrow said workers in small businesses deserve to be treated fairly and the Federal Government went to the last election with a policy to define small business as those with 15 or fewer employees.
 
‘There should be no reduction in the number of workers protected, as the Coalition is proposing,’ she said.
 
‘Unions have traditionally had the ability to see the records of both members and non-members, so they can investigate suspected underpayments and stop workers being ripped off,’ she added.
 
Prevent discrimination
 
‘Unions sometimes need to see non-member records to prevent discrimination and ensure that members have not been paid less than non-members.’
 
Burrow said that along with the permit system and the requirement for 24 hours of notice to be given of any visit, the Fair Work Bill has additional safeguards and obliges officials to comply with the Privacy Act when accessing records.
 
‘This Bill does not grant unions any new-found ability to enter workplaces,’ she said.
 
‘What it does is allow workers to have access to unions for advice and consultation in their workplace, with safeguards for employers.’
 
Need for good faith
 
Burrow said the Coalition also wants to limit the right for employees and employers to last resort workplace determinations by the independent umpire when bargaining breaks down.
 
She said these determinations by Fair Work Australia would only be available when there were persistent and flagrant breaches of good faith bargaining by one party, or in limited circumstances when low-paid workers and their employer have exhausted all opportunities to reach agreement.
 
‘The thrust of the Fair Work Bill is on collective bargaining at the enterprise level, but it can only be successful if both parties approach negotiations in good faith,’ Burrow said.
 
‘If workplace determinations are not available, we are consigning millions of low-paid workers in industries such as hospitality and catering, child care and cleaning to a lifetime on the minimum wage, with no control over their destiny or ability to bargain for higher pay.’
 
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