IR news briefs 23/7/03

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IR news briefs 23/7/03

Since taking office in 1996, the Federal Government has made 16 new primary appointments and 20 new concurrent appointments to the AIRC.

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In the latest IR news: More training demanded to manage increased powers; FTA okay if rights protected; ACCI anxious over redundancy; State Wage Case pending in Queensland; Emergency worker laws commence; New AIRC Commissioner appointed.

More training a must to manage increased powers

Commonwealth protective service officers want more training to implement proposed amendments to Australian Protective Service laws which give them more power to detain and search people.

The Commonwealth Public Sector Union (CPSU), which represents Australian Protective Service Officers, will appear today before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee's Inquiry into the Australian Protective Service Amendment Bill 2003.

According to CPSU Border Protection and International Affairs Division Secretary, Evan Hall, the CPSU is 'broadly supportive of the aims of the Bill'.

However, the CPSU want the proposed new powers clarified, and assurances for the Federal Government that officers will receive appropriate certification, training, support and equipment to implement the powers.

The CPSU also want officers to receive appropriate remuneration commensurate with the new powers.

The Bill proposes that a protective service officer will have extra powers in relation to:

  • requesting a person's name, identification, address and reason for being in the place, or in the vicinity of the place, person or thing the officer is protecting;
  • stopping, detaining and searching a person who is in the place, or in the vicinity of the place, person or thing the officer is protecting; and
  • seizing things found on people who are searched, if those things are likely to be used to cause death or serious harm to the person, or the person in the place, or in the vicinity of the person, place or thing that the officer is protecting.

For more detail go to the Parliament of Australia website

US Labor Congress and ACTU okay with trade deal if rights protected

US and Australian unions have no problems with the US and Australia developing deeper social and economic integration.

But any such integration must be equitable, democratic and sustainable. 'It can't simply extend and enforce corporate privilege and power.'

When negotiating the Free Trade Agreement, the US Labor Congress and the ACTU want the US and Australian Governments to ensure:

  • the inclusion of core workers' rights as identified by the International Labour Organisation Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work;
  • a commitment to enforce domestic labour and environmental laws and all international treaty obligations in these areas;
  • the release of draft negotiating documents in a timely manner to enable proper consultation;
  • consultation with publics prior to initiating dispute proceedings;
  • dispute panels are open to the public;
  • the acceptance of friend-of-the-court submissions from interested parties;
  • the agreement does not undermine the ability of Governments to provide public services; to enact and enforce legitimate regulations in the public interest; or use government procurement policies to achieve legitimate social goals;
  • core workers' rights are addressed by the World Trade Organisation before any new round of multilateral trade negotiations is launched.

ACCI continue to raise small business Redundancy Test Case concerns

The ACTU's attempt to achieve redundancy provisions for federal award workers employed in small businesses is problematic, says the Australian Council of Commerce and Industry (ACCI).

If the ACTU wins the Redundancy Test Case currently before the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC), it will be the first time small businesses will be required to make redundancy payments to federal award employees, ACCI chief executive, Peter Hendy said.

ACCI is also concerned that the ACTU want to:

  • double federal award redundancy payments from a maximum of 8 weeks to 20 weeks;
  • extend redundancy payments to casuals;
  • include additional penalties and overtime in redundancy payments; and
  • introduce a $300 allowance for employment and financial advice.

According to Hendy, such redundancy provisions would increase the average redundancy payment for small business from $1500 per employee to $6000, or in some cases five months' pay.

'Far from doing employees any good, a successful ACTU claim would raise the cost of doing business, slow the labour market and make businesses even more reluctant to add new employees,' he said.

Queensland unions seek wage rise for award and non-award workers

In the State Wage Case before the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission the Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) seeks the following:

  • wage adjustments for award workers as per the AIRC Safety Net Review 2003;
  • allowance and service increment adjustments for award workers; and
  • a $17 per week minimum wage increase for award and non-award employees.

A decision is expected in August 2003.

For more information on the QCU submissions to the Queensland State Wage case go to the Queensland Council of Unions website

New emergency worker laws commence

New laws protecting emergency workers absent from work commenced on July 16.

It is now unlawful to dismiss an employee who is temporarily absent from work on voluntary emergency management duty.

Volunteers must be members of recognised emergency management organisations and be requested or expected to attend an emergency or natural disaster.

To be protected from termination the absence would need to be reasonable.

The new laws apply Australia-wide. But they don't apply to employees currently excluded from the unlawful termination provisions of the Workplace Relations Act, such as short-term casuals.

A previous story on WorkplaceInfo concerning emergency workers incorrectly referred to proposed ALP legislation. This story has now been corrected.

NEW AIRC Commissioner appointed

Colin Thatcher was appointed to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) on July 17.

Before his appointment to the AIRC, Thatcher held a number of positions including Assistant Director of the Business Council of Australia, and Secretary to the Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry from August 2001 until March 2003.

Thatcher will be based in Perth.

Since taking office in 1996, the Federal Government has made 16 new primary appointments and 20 new concurrent appointments to the AIRC.

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