IR/HR news briefs 23 January 2006


IR/HR news briefs 23 January 2006

Recent IR/HR news covers - Tas Govt joins High Court challenge on ‘insidious’ IR laws; Vics seek Workplace Advocate to protect workers; and Tas conference aimed at skills shortage.


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Recent IR/HR news covers - Tas Govt joins High Court challenge on ‘insidious’ IR laws; Vics seek Workplace Advocate to protect workers; and Tas conference aimed at skills shortage.

Tas joins High Court challenge on ‘insidious’ IR laws

The Tasmanian Government has joined the High Court challenge to the Federal Government’s WorkChoices IR legislation.

Writs have already been served in the High Court by the NSW and WA Governments. Queensland and South Australia are expected to follow soon.

Tas Industrial Relations Minister Judy Jackson announced yesterday (Sunday) that she had instructed the Solicitor-General to join the High Court challenges to the Commonwealth’s IR laws that have been lodged by NSW and WA.

Jackson said the federal IR changes would create uncertainty and insecurity in the workplace.

‘Worse still, these reforms will guarantee that workers will be exposed to bullying, coercion and harassment,’ she said.

Jackson said that women in the workforce were especially vulnerable.

‘In Tasmania, women make up more than half the workforce,’ she said. ‘A quarter of the entire workforce is made up of women with at least one child aged under four. Women in the workforce typically have a much higher incidence of part-time and casual work.’

Jackson said the federal laws would remove all protection against unfair dismissal for the vast majority of women in the Tasmanian workforce. There would no longer be any compensation for redundancy for most women workers.

‘But perhaps the most insidious feature of the Howard industrial relations agenda is that women in the workforce can be virtually compelled to sign up to workplace agreements - AWAs - which will reduce wages and conditions, such as flexible and family-friendly working arrangements, as well as ordinary wage rates, overtime and penalty rates.’

Jackson said new State laws to take effect from 1 February would in part help to protect existing conditions of employment for many workers in Tasmania.

‘Our new laws are about trying to maintain a responsible and reasonable balance between business and workers, and we think we have achieved a very fair outcome.’

Jackson said many thousands of workers had already voted with their feet in disgust at the Howard Government’s anti-worker legislation.

‘Teachers, nurses and other employees have quit the federal system and will now be covered by the State industrial relations system, which is based on fairness and balance, and which gives adequate protection to all,’ she said.

It is expected the High Court will hear the States’ challenge to the federal laws in the next few months.


NSW challenges WorkChoices in High Court, makes deal with unions

Vics seek Workplace Advocate to protect workers

The Victorian Government is seeking applications for its new position of Victorian Workplace Rights Advocate, whose job will be to advise workers about the new Federal WorkChoices laws.

Victorian Acting Minister for Industrial Relations, John Lenders, said the Office of the Workplace Rights Advocate will provide workers with assistance, through an information phone line, ‘to make sure they don’t sign away their existing rights and entitlements’.

‘The Advocate will support and advise workers and others on the effects of the Federal WorkChoices legislation, and investigate illegal and unfair industrial practices,’ Lenders said.

Lenders said the Federal Government’s ‘complex and confusing changes to Australia’s industrial system have left Victoria’s workers and families vulnerable’.

‘Many workers will lack any independent advice or effective bargaining power under the new arrangements,’ he said.

‘People who are offered an agreement need to know their rights and what they might be signing away in an agreement.

‘Research has shown that Australian Workplace Agreements are very unfriendly to working families, and lack many of the entitlements found in awards.’

Further information is available here.

Tas conference aimed at skills shortage

Tasmanian businesses are being urged to attend The Employer of Choice conference in March 2006 to help them overcome the current skills shortage.

The Minister for Economic Development Lara Giddings said skilled labour shortages are the biggest hurdle facing Tasmania in sustaining strong economic growth.

‘The Employer of Choice conference is designed to provide employers with strategies to attract and retain skilled staff,’ Giddings said.

Funded by the Tasmanian Government and organised by the Department of Economic Development, the one day conference will be held on 2 March 2006 at Wrest Point Casino.

The conference key note speaker will be Dr Natalie Jackson who will speak on labour shortages and population ageing.

The conference will also feature a series of workshops and a number of case studies where companies have successfully recruited and retained skilled staff.

Giddings said Tasmanian employers will be forced to compete for skilled staff against local, national and international businesses.

‘Tasmanian employers can’t afford to be complacent about attracting and retaining employees,’ she said.

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