Libs’ IR backflip leaves everything the same: ACTU

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Libs’ IR backflip leaves everything the same: ACTU

The ACTU says nothing has changed despite yesterday’s backdown on AWAs by the Coalition, while a leading employer organisation wants to make sure any change is beneficial.

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The ACTU says nothing has changed despite yesterday’s backdown on AWAs by the Coalition, while a leading employer organisation wants to make sure any change is beneficial.

Shadow IR Minister Julie Bishop yesterday said the Coalition would now support the Government’s plan to abolish AWAs, but wanted the Senate inquiry into the legislation to be completed first.

This would delay the passing of the legislation until the May–June sitting of Parliament.

ACTU secretary Sharan Burrow said the Coalition’s turnaround on AWAs will not bring any comfort to working families.

'Weasel words’

‘A lot of weasel words from Julie Bishop and at the end of it all no commitment to do other than stall a Senate inquiry by demand of the Liberals that stretches out in April,’ she said.

‘You can’t take any comfort from today’s announcement because nothing has changed.'

‘[It’s just] stalling tactics in the Senate - a drawn out inquiry while 1000 people a day will continue to suffer harm from individual contracts and no commitment at the end of all of that to vote against individual contracts.’

Unions Tasmania Secretary Simon Cocker said he is worried about Bishop’s backing of the Senate Committee being allowed to run its course.

‘They’ve only committed the Lower House where they don’t have the numbers to passing it,’ he said.

Hard-liners can obstruct

‘So it’s still wide open for the hard-liners to continue to obstruct and delay the Bill in the Senate and force more and more Australians onto individual contracts while the delays continue.’

‘Need working alternative’

However, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) wants Parliament to ensure there is a working alternative to AWAs before they are phased out of the IR system.

Peter Anderson, acting chief executive of ACCI, said the parliament needs to be ‘realistic and practical’.

‘With or without AWAs, the Australian economy needs to retain flexibility in the way people work and are remunerated,’ he said. ‘It is the responsibility of our parliament to ensure that exists.’

Anderson said that whatever the politics of the moment, individual agreements based on a proper ‘no-disadvantage test' need to remain an ongoing part of the industrial relations framework, together with a safety net and a collective system of enterprise bargaining.

‘Phasing out the AWA system should not be a theoretical exercise,’ he said. ‘Thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of employees have AWAs, which usually provide higher wages than awards as an offset for workplace flexibility.'

‘The Senate would do well, when considering proposals to phase out the AWA system, to examine whether employees and employers with AWAs are happy with their wages and working conditions, and whether alternative approaches provide comparable benefits and flexibilities.’

Workable alternative

Anderson said leading employer and industry organisations will be examining the AWA proposals at meetings in Melbourne this Friday, with a view to presenting the Senate with a constructive analysis of the government’s proposals, and how a workable alternative to the AWA system might be framed.

Tasmania’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI) believes employers will be able to live with the proposed new industrial relations laws.

TCCI chief executive, Damon Thomas, said the changes will not be instant, as a Senate Inquiry will run its course and there will be a transition period.

However, he hopes the looming award system and collective bargaining with or without union involvement will be simplified.

Flexible labour market will evolve

Thomas believes a flexible labour market will still evolve over time, because demand for skilled workers across a range of industries is still high.

‘When labour offers itself, it’s going to offer itself on conditions that suit it,’ he said.

‘And the employers are going to come to some form of an agreement which suits them and the employee, and its not necessarily going to fit an industry-wide situation or an award specification.’


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