Miners reject Labor's IR olive branch

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Miners reject Labor's IR olive branch

Mining employers appear to have rejected an offer by Labor to tailor its IR policies to suit their needs, saying they have not yet been offered anything better than what they have under WorkChoices.

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Mining employers appear to have rejected an offer by Labor to tailor its IR policies to suit their needs, saying they have not yet been offered anything better than what they have under WorkChoices.

Opposition IR spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, met representatives of the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) this morning to discuss options the miners could use if Labor wins the election and abolishes AWAs.

Association Chief Executive, Steve Knott, says Gillard had not eased their concerns.

'The reservations we have are: what's going to replace AWAs?' he said. 'Is it going to be something that does the same thing?'

Illegal industrial action

Knott said he had not got a commitment from Labor about that, and the 'concern is still there — and what will curtail illegal industrial action?' He said the current IR regime has brought historic lows of industrial action.

'We haven't had a competing alternative put up that is going to improve upon the current arrangements, so we still have those concerns,' he said.

Labor won't change policy

Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd said his party will keep talking to the business community but will not change its policy.

'Our job is to get on with the business of making sure that we have got the balance right between fairness and flexibility, and the framework we've put forward does that,' Rudd said. 'What we're now doing is consulting with the business community and the mining community to ensure that we've got all the detail right and all the details fine-tuned, and we're going to do that in the weeks and months ahead.'

ACTU says business 'playing politics'

Meanwhile ACTU President, Sharan Burrow, said big businesses is 'playing politics' with their outcry over the IR plan, and trying to protect powers given to them by the Howard Government.

'These companies are out there to defend their power, their capacity for telling employees what to do,' she said. 'We know now that these companies will do anything to protect the power that John Howard's given them against working Australians.'

Earlier today Gillard said the mining industry would continue to have flexible employment options for its workers under a Labor Government, following criticism of the plan to abolish AWAs.

She said mining companies would continue to have flexible options for employing their workers even if AWAs were scrapped, and argued that a combination of common law contracts and awards would continue to deliver workforce flexibility in areas like the mining industry.

Less red tape

'Some of our mining companies work with those today - those awards can have facilitation clauses in them that allow for common law contracts to cover some conditions, perhaps individual pay arrangements, whilst the award covers the conditions that are common across the workforce,' Gillard said. 'There's actually less red tape with common law agreements than there are with Australian Workplace Agreements.'

However, Prime Minister John Howard says Labor's plans would destroy the momentum of the economy and do great damage to job creation, especially in small business.

'This goes to the heart of economic credibility and economic performance,' he said.

Clumsy analogy with football

Gillard came under fire yesterday when she appeared to threaten that business would be 'injured' if it got involved in the political battle over IR.

However Gillard later explained that this was a clumsy attempt at an analogy between the body contact of AFL football and the heat of the political battle.

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