Labor’s move to protect PS sparks strong reactions


Labor’s move to protect PS sparks strong reactions

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten has generated strong reaction to his proposed legislation designed to frustrate state governments outsourcing public sector positions.


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The statement by Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten last Friday — that he would introduce legislation next month to require state public sector jobs that are transferred to contractors to be paid at same rates wages and conditions as the public sector positions — has triggered a threat by the Queensland Government to withdraw small businesses from the Fair Work system.

Unincorporated businesses are within the Fair Work system by means of state legislation that allows for federal coverage in this respect.

The move by Shorten is part of a political strategy by the Federal Government to oppose big job cuts by the Qld and NSW governments.

The Australian has reported discontent among small businesses with the Fair Work system. The newspaper also reports that employer bodies are wary of any move to destabilise the central federal system, because administratively it is the preferred approach.

Unions supports Shorten
David Carey, the leader of the 100,000 member State Public Services Federation (SPSF) backed the changes announced by Shorten.

Carey said, ‘It is a great development, and the Gillard Labor Government and Minister should be congratulated for this initiative’.
‘It should not only preserve entitlements and conditions, but it ends years of unfair treatment by State Governments and private employers alike.’

United Voice also welcomed the announcement saying: ‘The amendment to the transmission of business provisions of the Fair Work Act will ensure workers’ pay rates, working conditions, leave and other entitlements will not be reduced if a government agency or service is privatised.’

Unions NSW secretary, Mark Lennon, said the decision meant state public sector workers would no longer be treated like second class citizens during a privatisation or outsourcing.

‘Minister Shorten’s decision is a game changer. It means that the fate of public sector workers will no longer be determined by the whim of slash and burn Coalition state governments.’

Employer groups criticise
New South Wales’s peak business organisation, NSW Business Chamber, has slammed the Federal Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, for his attempt to interfere in the management of state government services.

‘This is political wrangling of the worst order. The Minister’s scramble to change the Fair Work Act to prevent state governments from better managing their service delivery to taxpayers is nothing more than cheap political point-scoring by the Federal Labor Government,’ said Stephen Cartwright, CEO of the NSW Business Chamber.

‘This is a clear case where the Federal Government should butt out of state government affairs. State governments are under increasing financial pressure to bring their budgets under control but are getting no support from the Federal Government, only added problems and interference.’

‘It’s unrealistic for any government to expect a private sector employer to continue the often highly restrictive and inflexible workplace arrangements that have been negotiated under state government enterprise bargaining agreements when they take over state government contracts or services.’

‘State government departments have an unfair advantage over private sector operators. Government departments, in most instances, do not have to compete is an open market for business, and do not have to pay the levies and taxes that are applied to the private sector enterprises, such as payroll tax.’

Cartwright said state governments are applying common sense to the budget challenges they are facing by using private sector operators to provide some public services where this delivers better value to taxpayers, but the Federal Government’s move would lock in inefficient or unproductive state government cost structures — and this ultimately has to be paid for by taxpayers.
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