IR laws ‘impotent’ without an umpire: Burrow

News

IR laws ‘impotent’ without an umpire: Burrow

Labor’s new IR laws ‘could be rendered impotent’ unless there is an industrial umpire able to act against breaches of good faith bargaining, ACTU president Sharan Burrow has told the National Press Club.

WantToReadMore

Get unlimited access to all of our content.


Labor’s new IR laws ‘could be rendered impotent’ unless there is an industrial umpire able to act against breaches of good faith bargaining, ACTU president Sharan Burrow has told the National Press Club.

In her strongest attack yet on the proposed Fair Work Australia system, Burrow said waiting for the legislation ‘is a painful, anxious time for those of us who campaigned so hard against WorkChoices’.

She said unions are concerned about: 

  • genuinely free collective bargaining

  • the strength of the independent umpire

  • the right of workers to representation

  • rights and safeguards for independent contractors

  • award modernisation not disadvantaging any workers

  • protections from unfair dismissal

  • equal rights for all Australian workers, including workers in the building and construction industry.

‘A strong and independent umpire is essential for collective bargaining to work,’ Burrow said.

No power to determine outcomes

‘Unless the new industrial umpire, Fair Work Australia, has enough power to act against serious and persistent breaches of “good faith”, including the power to determine an outcome from bargaining, the new IR laws could be rendered impotent.'

‘Extra power for the umpire to settle disputes will be particularly important to help workers in low paid industries, including many women and young workers who are the most likely to be employed in award reliant sectors of the economy.'

‘The multi-employer collective bargaining stream for the low paid is visionary and must work if the safety net is not to entrench low wages.'

‘To lift workers off the safety net is fundamental to social equity and essential to prevent our economy becoming more deeply divided by a two-speed economy.'

‘However, if it is to be successful the independent umpire must be able to settle those final matters in dispute when parties become entrenched in a stand-off.’

Bargaining restrictions ‘unnecessary’

Burrow said the restrictions proposed on the scope of what employees can bargain collectively with their employer are ‘unnecessary, unfair and outmoded’.

‘Why should there be any limit on what workers and their employers can agree about?’ she said.

‘Business representatives are selling the workplaces of the future short if bargaining cannot accommodate workforce planning, skills of the future, the number of apprentices, a commitment to employ Indigenous Australians or much more.'

‘Employees have a legitimate interest in a wide range of issues, including how to save energy, reduce waste and support climate change solutions in their workplace.'

‘Workers should be able to include any or all of these in a collective agreement.’

Burrow quoted Glenn Stephens, the Reserve Bank Governor, as saying:  ‘… as a general proposition, we are most likely to get the best productivity when firms and their employers are able to bargain widely across the range of practices.’ 

Protect independent contractors

Burrow said it was essential that the new national system adopted protections for independent contractors that exist under state jurisdictions, including the right to sue over unfair contracts.

‘This is particularly important in a modern economy, where outsourcing and contracting practices have meant that many vulnerable workers are now formally classed as independent contractors, and so have lost all of the protections available to ‘employees’ under the law,’ she said.


Related


Collective bargaining a ‘mirage’ without industrial umpire: unions

 

Post details