Libs target Senate to amend Labor’s IR laws

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Libs target Senate to amend Labor’s IR laws

The Federal Opposition has said it will not oppose Labor’s Fair Work legislation in the Lower House, but has indicated it will be seeking significant amendments in the Senate.

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The Federal Opposition has said it will not oppose Labor’s Fair Work legislation in the Lower House, but has indicated it will be seeking significant amendments in the Senate.
 
In his Second Reading speech in Parliament this week, shadow IR spokesman Michael Keenan complained of a ‘massive’ expansion in the rights of union officials.
 
Increase union power
 
And in a Party Room debate yesterday, Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said the debate had shifted from WorkChoices to Labor's plans to increase union power. 
 
He said the Opposition would use a Senate inquiry to identify problems with the legislation and highlight differences on industrial relations.
 
Last week, Turnbull accepted that Labor had a mandate to dismantle WorkChoices.
 
However pro-WorkChoices figures within the Opposition, including Deputy Leader Julie Bishop and Senator Nick Minchin are strong proponents of individual agreements and indicated dissatisfaction with allowing Labor’s legislation to pass relatively unchanged.
 
‘Best organising conditions’
 
In his speech, Keenan said the actual effect of the legislation ‘is to give unions the best organising conditions they have seen for decades’.
 
‘Unions can now enter a workplace where it uses AWA’s, ITEA’s or non-union collective agreements — whereas before they could not,’ he said.
 
‘One or several unions can now enter workplaces where it uses an agreement made with another union.'
 
‘Unions can now access non-union member records. Unions can walk in to any workplace, even when it has no members.'
 
Restrictions loosened
 
‘Restrictions on where unions could hold meetings have been loosened.'
 
‘Unions can now bargain with an employer about right of entry. Unions are now default bargaining agents.'
 
‘Unions are likely to be automatic parties to most new enterprise agreements.'
 
‘Unions get an automatic and privileged seat at the bargaining table with disproportionate powers.'
 
‘And restrictions on who can go to the so-called industrial umpire, Fair Work Australia, favour those represented by a union.’
 
Pattern bargaining by another name
 
Keenan said special bargaining provisions contained within the Bill ‘allow for pattern bargaining by another name and will have the dangerous effect of creating artificial wage outcomes and reducing the relevance of the safety net’.
 
He said another ‘free kick’ gained by the union movement within this legislation is that the unions are allowed to demand bargaining fees from non-union members.
 
Keenan said employers who now buy a business with employees will also be forced to buy the agreement that covers those employees.
 
‘We will be examining the evidence presented to the Senate inquiry into the Bill, and we reserve our right to make amendments to improve the way this legislation might function,’ Keenan said.
 
Excuse for delay
 
However, IR Minister Julia Gillard said last week that the Senate inquiry ‘should not become a cobbled excuse for delay’.
 
‘This Bill represents what the Australian people voted for and, consequently, Members of the House of Representatives and Senators should vote for it,’ she said.
 
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