Labor has IR mandate: Turnbull

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Labor has IR mandate: Turnbull

New Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has made it clear he doesn't want to fight the next federal election on industrial relations, by giving Labor a virtual green light for its new workplace laws, and declaring WorkChoices is 'dead'.

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New Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has made it clear he doesn’t want to fight the next federal election on industrial relations, by giving Labor a virtual green light for its new workplace laws, and declaring WorkChoices is ‘dead’.

At a doorstop press conference, Turnbull admitted ‘the Government does have a mandate to make changes’ on industrial relations.

‘As far as the Coalition is concerned WorkChoices is dead,’ he said.

Review the details

‘However, naturally we will again in the national interest review the details of whatever legislation the Government presents.'

‘They have not done so yet. They have made a lot of statements, there’s a lot of debate and acrimony going on between the unions and the Government.'

‘But the ball is in Julia Gillard’s court and we will scrutinise any changes she proposes in the national interest but, I repeat, WorkChoices is dead.’

Turnbull said the Opposition could not give IR Minister Julia Gillard a blank cheque because ‘I don’t know what’s in her legislation’.

‘WorkChoices is dead’

‘But we do recognise, as I said, WorkChoices is dead. She has now got to come up with the detail and we’ll respond to her detailed proposal in detail ourselves. That is the responsible thing to do.'

Meanwhile, the ACTU is building up pressure on the Government to offer unions a better deal in its Fair Work Australia IR system by running two new TV ads saying collective bargaining is at the centre of workers’ wages and conditions.

The ads will be broadcast over the next six weeks ahead of the expected introduction by the Federal Government of the next stage of its new IR laws.

ACTU wants changes

The ACTU said unions want the Government to establish a comprehensive and workable system of collective bargaining, to provide a strong role for the independent umpire to settle disputes that are hard to resolve, and to give workers a range of important legal rights and protections in their workplaces.

The advertisements feature real workers highlighting the value of collective bargaining in delivering better pay and conditions as well as improved standards that can benefit the whole community.

ACTU president Sharan Burrow said the ads are a reminder that through collective bargaining teachers have won lower class sizes for their students, nurses have lifted the standard of patient care through nurse:patient ratios, workers in dangerous industries such as construction have achieved better safety standards, and many women workers have achieved paid maternity leave.

‘The Government has already taken important steps to begin undoing the damage caused by the Coalition’s WorkChoices and further steps will shortly be taken with Labor’s proposed new IR laws,’ Burrow said.

Collective bargaining at risk

‘But there are gaps in the current plan that put at risk genuine collective bargaining rights for workers.'

‘A strong and independent umpire is essential for collective bargaining to work effectively and the new industrial umpire, Fair Work Australia, must be given enough power to settle disputes.'

‘Otherwise employers will be able to frustrate negotiations and prevent workers, especially the low paid and many women workers, from gaining better pay and conditions through multi-employer collective bargaining.’

Barrier to innovation

Burrow said restrictions proposed by the Government on the content of collective agreements will be a barrier to innovation and a modern economy.

‘Employees have a legitimate interest in discussing with their employer a wide range of issues, including how to support climate change solutions in their workplace and how to plan for workforce changes and skills needs,’ she said.

‘Labor’s proposed improvements to anti-discrimination protections for union delegates during collective bargaining and workers who stand up for their rights are welcome and should go further.'

‘We are also concerned that business groups are unduly influencing the Labor Government to wind back unfair dismissal protection for workers, especially those in small businesses.’


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