More comment on Fair Work Bill

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More comment on Fair Work Bill

IR Minister Julia Gillard has defended extending right-of-entry rules for union officials by saying free trade unions are one of the hallmarks of democracy. Meanwhile, the ACTU has accused the Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, of being devious in claiming he would support the Government’s new IR legislation.

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IR Minister Julia Gillard has defended extending right-of-entry rules for union officials by saying free trade unions are one of the hallmarks of democracy. Meanwhile, the ACTU has accused the Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, of being devious in claiming he would support the Government’s new IR legislation.
 
Union right of entry a ‘hallmark of democracy’: Gillard
 
IR Minister Julia Gillard has defended extending right-of-entry rules for union officials by saying free trade unions are one of the hallmarks of democracy.
 
Under the new Fair Work Bill union officials will have the right to enter work premises where they have members, or workers who are eligible to be their members, provided they:
  • are fit and proper persons
  • have a permit from Fair Work Australia
  • give 24 hours notice
  • hold talks with the employees during non-work hours.
 
Union officials ‘knocking on the door’
 
At a press conference, Gillard was asked what she would say to ‘thousands of businesses out there who’ve never had dealings with unions, who now face union officials knocking on their door and gaining entry to their business?’
 
Gillard replied that was ‘not true on the facts’.
 
‘For many a long year in this country, we’ve had the ability of union officials to enter workplaces to talk to people who are their members, or who are eligible to be their members in non-working time,’ she said.
 
Gillard said Australia prided itself on being a democratic nation, and free trade unions were a hallmark of this, along with a free press.
 
‘And even under conservative governments in this country, we’ve lectured the rest of the world about free trade unions,’ she said.
 
Entitled to be represented
 
‘Well, what we’re saying in this legislation is that if a person decides to be a member of a union, then they’re entitled to be represented by that union and if they want to meet with that union, they’re entitled to do that as well in non-work time, subject to the strict conditions that I have outlined.’
 
Gillard was asked whether it was the case under current laws that union officials could not visit a worksite where the employees were ‘entirely covered by AWAs’.
 
Gillard said WorkChoices had changed the interaction of industrial agreements.
 
Nexus with award
 
She said that in the past if workers had a non-union collective agreement the award still had legal life, the collective agreement would be over the top of it, and union right of entry existed because of the nexus with the award.
 
‘WorkChoices changed the nature of the interrelationship between industrial instruments, so that if you made a collective agreement, it completely voided the legal operation of the award and consequently the right of entry that that nexus enabled,’ Gillard said.
 
‘What we’ve done under this legislation is we have said we think it’s appropriate that unions, under the strict criteria which we have set out, are able to enter workplaces.'
 
‘It’s not a function of what is the industrial agreement there. It’s a function of having members or persons eligible to be members there.’
 
 
Libs ‘devious’ on support for IR Bill: ACTU
 
Meanwhile, the ACTU has accused the Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, of being devious in claiming he would support the Government’s new IR legislation.
 
ACTU president Sharan Burrow said Turnbull is hedging his bets about opposing the Fair Work Bill by saying the Liberals will seek amendments in the Senate.
 
She said Turnbull’s declaration that the Liberals would support the Bill in the lower house was meaningless, and he was deliberately being evasive about what amendments they would seek in the Senate.
 
‘Suspicious’
 
‘Working Australians should remain very suspicious of the Liberals,’ Burrow said.
 
‘This is the party that brought us WorkChoices and that still believes in individual contracts and taking away workers’ rights, including protection from unfair dismissal.’
 
Burrow said the passage through Parliament of the Fair Work Bill would be a major step towards reversing more than a decade of attacks on workplace rights.
 
‘It would ensure that collective bargaining is the foundation of our workplace relations system, allowing workers to stand shoulder to shoulder to improve their wages and conditions,’ she said.
 
But WorkChoices won’t be dead until the Fair Work Bill is passed intact by the Senate — and that is far from assured given the reluctance of the Liberals to commit to supporting specific elements.’
 
‘Still support for WorkChoices’
 
Burrow said it is well known that behind closed doors there is a large section of the Liberal and National parties who remain wedded to WorkChoices, and there will be enormous pressure to water down the Bill.
 
‘We have already seen media reports today that former Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson feels that individual contracts and unfair dismissal exemptions for small business are “pillars of belief”,’ she said.
 
Burrow said many Liberal frontbenchers are also on the record as strongly supporting WorkChoices and the policy of removing unfair dismissal rights for workers in small businesses.
 
‘A year ago, Australians said they had had enough of the unfair IR policies of the Coalition,’ she said.
 
‘But the fundamental question remains: will the Liberals support the full restoration of workers’ rights, or will they put working people last again?’
 
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