Labor signals ‘steady as she goes’ IR policy with new Minister

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Labor signals ‘steady as she goes’ IR policy with new Minister

The Federal Labor Government has signalled that major changes in its industrial relations policy are over, with former immigration Minister Senator Chris Evans taking responsibility for that area of government policy in the new ministry.

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The Federal Labor Government has signalled that major changes in its industrial relations policy are over, with former immigration Minister Senator Chris Evans taking responsibility for that area of government policy in the new ministry.
 
Evans replaces Simon Crean, who temporarily assumed that position when Julia Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister before the election.
 
Industrial relations was one of Gillard’s two main responsibilities as Deputy Leader (the other was education), but is the third responsibility for Evans, who is now called the Minister for Jobs, Skills and Workplace Relations.
 
Evans is expected to have as his main focus the skills shortage looming in the WA and Qld mining and resources sector, as well as across industry generally. With unemployment now down to 5.1%, Australia will be hard pressed to meet employers’ demands for a skilled workforce.
 
Unchanged
 
With WorkChoices now formally dead and buried (Labor could get no traction with it as an election issue despite a last-minute scare campaign) and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott not even releasing an industrial relations policy during the election campaign, the current Fair Work Act 2009 is likely to remain largely unchanged into the future.
 
This will come as welcome news to employer organisations who are working hard to assist members to come to terms with the new modern awards and who just want certainty in their workplace relations.
 
Evans himself is a former union official, heading the WA Fire Brigades Union for three years and working as an industrial officer for an early version of the LHMU in that state. He was WA secretary of the ALP before being elected to the Senate in 1993 in Paul Keating’s only election win as Prime Minister.
 
The ACTU today welcomed Evans appointment, saying the new ministry had an ‘emphasis on securing jobs for working Australians, building a stronger, more sustainable economy and delivering good schools, decent healthcare and better services for all Australians, including those in the regions’.
 
Pressures
 
ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said Senator Evans has had a long association with working people and understands the pressures they face.
 
‘The renaming of this portfolio shows a welcome focus on jobs and skills as the key drivers of Australia’s economic growth,’ Lawrence said.
 
‘The Labor Government has made important investments in this area which have contributed to Australia’s rapid recovery from the economic downturn and protected working families from the GFC.’
‘We look forward to developing a strong relationship with Senator Evans and working closely with him on issues important to workers, including ensuring the Fair Work Act delivers on collective bargaining and better rights at work.’
 
‘We will be seeking to raise with Senator Evans his support for union priorities including the landmark equal pay case in the social and community sector, improvements to the protection of employee entitlements, occupational health and safety and rights for union delegates.’
 
Superannuation to be increased
 
Lawrence also welcomes the promotion of former NUW secretary Bill Shorten to the position of Assistant Treasurer and pledges to work with him in delivering on the government’s election commitment to raise national superannuation to 12%.
 
‘Shorten’s previous career of close involvement with workers means he is someone who understands the importance of having a secure income in retirement,’ Lawrence said.
 
ACTU president Ged Kearney congratulated former ACTU secretary Greg Combet on his elevation into the Cabinet as the new Minister for Climate Change.
 
‘Combet has the proven skills from his career in the union movement to handle this sensitive and critical portfolio,’ Kearney said.
 
‘We will work with him on the opportunities for new clean energy jobs posed by the transition to a low-carbon economy.’
 
‘I am confident that Combet understands the importance of protecting existing jobs and creating new ones during the transition to a low-carbon economy, and unions look forward to working with him to capture the opportunities for new jobs and industries posed by action on climate change.’
 
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