Legislation and union news, 30/08/11

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Legislation and union news, 30/08/11

ABCC blitz on sham contracting; Fed Govt ‘commitment’ means Safe Rates laws by year’s end: TWU; New ACT law bans surveillance in prayer rooms; NSW Govt announces reform to business migration program; IPA launches new unit to drive industrial relations.

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ABCC blitz on sham contracting; Fed Govt ‘commitment’ means Safe Rates laws by year’s end: TWU; New ACT law bans surveillance in prayer rooms; NSW Govt announces reform to business migration program; IPA launches new unit to drive industrial relations.

ABCC blitz on sham contracting
 
The ABCC is planning to swoop on Brisbane construction sites in the next few months to check for sham contracting.

The audits will initially focus on subcontractors engaged on projects funded by the Queensland Government that were affected by work stoppages in late May 2011. They will also look for incorrect payment of employee entitlements.

Deputy ABC Commissioner Michael Campbell said the audits will initially focus on subcontractors engaged on projects funded by the Queensland Government that were affected by work stoppages in late May 2011.

‘We run these audits to give industry participants advice about sham contracting and help them ensure sure their employment arrangements are lawful,’ Campbell said.

‘It also gives us the opportunity to assist employers to understand their obligations when it comes to payment of employee wages and other entitlements like overtime, industry allowances and special rates.’

‘In cases where records are not up to scratch, or there is evidence suggesting sham contracting, we may consider launching a wider investigation.’

A sham arrangement occurs where the parties to an employment relationship intentionally misrepresent or disguise a contract of employment as a subcontracting relationship.

Campbell said the ABCC can help building and construction industry participants to understand their obligations and rectify inadvertent ambiguities associated with employment contracts.

The ABCC currently has three proceedings before the court, and 50 investigations nationally, relating to allegations of sham contracting.

See also: Inquiry into sham contracting: progress report
 

Fed Govt ‘commitment’ means Safe Rates laws by year’s end: TWU
 
The Federal Government has provided a timetable for the introduction of safe rates for truck drivers, their union has reported.

According to Transport Workers Union (TWU) national secretary Tony Sheldon, Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese told TWU members at a delegates conference on Friday that the government would determine its response to the Safe Rates, Safe Roads Directions Paper (issued in late-2010) by mid-October this year.

‘Critically, Mr Albanese said that the government “intends to introduce legislation, if required, by the end of this year”,’ Sheldon said.

‘Mr Albanese [also] said the Government “acknowledged the need to tackle the problems of speed and fatigue in the road transport industry and to remove economic incentives for drivers to engage in unsafe work practices.”’

New tribunal or expanded FWA powers
 
‘This is great news that has been a long time coming. The TWU takes the Minister’s remarks as a commitment to moving to create a new tribunal or providing Fair Work Australia with the power to hear submissions from all interested parties and make independent determinations about what rates of pay and conditions should take effect in the road transport sector.’

The TWU has long advocated a safe rates system, wherein truck drivers receive full-cost recovery for the work they perform, including full-reimbursement for fuel and maintenance costs and paid waiting times. The Union’s argument has relied on the National Transport Commission’s 2008 Quinlan–Wright report, which linked unfair conditions, pay and payment methods with a culture of speeding, fatigue and illicit substance use in the road transport industry.


New ACT law bans surveillance in prayer rooms
 
New privacy laws, which ban surveillance of employees in bathrooms, change rooms and prayer rooms, come into effect in the Australian Capital Territory on 25 August.

Under a Bill sponsored by the Greens, employers will have to tell employees how and where they are being watched.

Greens MLA Amanda Bresnan said bosses who want to secretly monitor workers will in future have to apply through the courts.

Court application
 
‘After a six month transition, covert surveillance of workers will only be able to take place after an application to the Magistrates Court that can show reasonable suspicion that unlawful activity has taken place,’ she said.

‘The surveillance will then be conducted by an independent surveillance supervisor to protect the privacy of workers.’

Bresnan said the changes provide clarity on what is appropriate use of surveillance devices.

Clear process
 
‘We know that surveillance sometimes has to occur,’ she said.

‘But with these changes and having the application to the Magistrates Court we know there’s a clear process in place.’

‘It makes it a lot clearer for employers and employees about when surveillance can occur and how it can occur.’


NSW Govt announces reform to business migration program


Deputy Premier and Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Stoner announced several reforms to the NSW business migration program to make it more competitive in attracting high-value immigration to New South Wales.

Mr Stoner said that following a strategic review of the program a number of initiatives are being implemented.
 
‘The changes to the business migration program reflect the need to support business migrants who wish to settle in NSW,’ Mr Stoner said.


IPA launches new unit to drive industrial relations
 
The Institute of Public Affairs launched its new Work Reform and Productivity Unit to drive industrial relations reform in Australia.

The Unit will be headed by its director, the former Australian Building and Construction Commissioner, The Hon John Lloyd PSM.

John Roskam, executive director of the IPA, said:
‘The reregulation of the industrial relations system since 2007 has choked Australia's productivity and is holding back the country’s economic performance. It is time for a new vision for work productivity. Productivity reform must be the number one priority for Australia. Millions of Australian jobs are at risk in industries that are struggling to remain internationally competitive.’
 
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