New IR laws — views keep coming

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New IR laws — views keep coming

Ai Group, Ridout, new IR laws, FWA, Annual Labour Law Conference, May 2009, Workplace Research Centre, University of Sydney

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Ai Group chief executive Heather Ridout has told a Senate Inquiry that the Federal Government’s new IR legislation has to be changed because it has reduced the rights of employers and increased the power of unions. Meanwhile, presented by Workplace Research Centre & Sydney Law School, University of Sydney, the17th Annual Labour Law Conference will address (on 15 May) the major changes to Australia’s IR system occurring from 2009.
 
New IR laws too tough on business, says Ridout
 
Ai Group chief executive Heather Ridout has told a Senate Inquiry that the Federal Government’s new IR legislation has to be changed because it has reduced the rights of employers and increased the power of unions.
 
Ridout said the current economic environment was ‘not a time to be taking risks’.
 
‘This is a time for giving businesses as much certainty as possible, in a highly risky and uncertain economic environment,’ she said.
 
Ridout said a key test for the Bill is whether the proposed changes would be suitable for bad times as well as good times.
 
‘When the Forward with Fairness policy was released, and during most of the Government’s consultation process, the Australian economy was robust and the outlook was positive,’ she said.
 
Dramatic turnaround
 
‘As we are all aware, there has been a dramatic turnaround. Most other developed nations are in recession and it would be foolish to believe that the global financial crisis and economic slowdown will not have a major impact upon Australian businesses, even though that impact has not yet been fully felt.'
 
‘In the current environment, Parliament needs to take great care when legislating to avoid imposing additional costs or inflexibilities upon employers, which would be at the expense of jobs.'
 
‘Jobs need to be the priority, together with avoiding workplace relations turmoil.’
 
Ridout said that in assessing the new legislation, Forward with Fairness was not an appropriate starting point — the current legislation is.
 
Bill ‘does not fare well’
 
‘When compared against the existing laws, the Bill does not fare well,’ she said. ‘The Bill substantially reduces the rights of employers and substantially increases the role and power of unions.'
 
‘Ai Group has identified more than 60 provisions of the Bill where the role and power of unions have increased ... and there are virtually none where employers have been given more rights.'
 
‘This is in the context that the main provisions regulating unions (currently contained in Schedule 1 of the Workplace Relations Act) are not even included in the Fair Work Bill.'
 
‘In our written submission we have proposed a substantial number of amendments to the Bill — some deal with major issues, others relate to technical or drafting matters.'
 
‘The amendments would result in a more balanced and workable piece of legislation.'
 
Disruptive for business
 
‘Constantly changing the national workplace relations system is very disruptive for business and I sincerely hope that we can achieve good and settled law.’
 
Ai Group has nominated seven core areas of concern about the proposed legislation:
  • union entry rights
  • union coverage of agreements
  • greenfield agreements
  • enterprise agreement making
  • the low-paid bargaining stream
  • prevention of enterprise agreements overriding state and territory laws
  • transfer of business provisions.
 
 
17th Annual Labour Law Conference: 15 May 2009
 
Meanwhile, presented by Workplace Research Centre & Sydney Law School, University of Sydney, the17th Annual Labour Law Conference will address (on 15 May) the major changes to Australia’s IR system occurring from 2009.
 
The conference will be held at the Hilton in Sydney.
 
This is an important time in the development of Australian labour law, and the 17th Annual Labour Law Conference is designed to make sense of extensive and complex information.
 
This year’s conference brings together Australia’s leading labour law and IR researchers and practitioners to discuss the emerging industrial relations framework and the consistency of the current and proposed developments with previous Australian labour law.
 
The conference keynote speaker is the recently retired High Court judge, Justice Michael Kirby.
 
Professor Andrew Stewart (University of Adelaide) will provide all of the information that is needed regarding the Fair Work Bill including unfair dismissal, unlawful termination, enterprise agreement content, and the new national employment standards. He will also discuss the Fair Work Bill timetable and transitional arrangements.
 
Geoff McGill (Workplace Research Centre) and Josh Bornstein (Maurice Blackburn Lawyers) will be discussing the implications of good faith bargaining for Australian workplaces.
 
Professor Ron McCallum (Sydney Law School) analyses the Rudd Government's approach to produce a model occupational health and safety statute to be enacted by all of Australia's parliaments in order to produce a national grid of safety laws for Australia.
 
The 17th Annual Labour Law Conference will have labour law experts in one room for one day ready to impart their knowledge, answer any questions and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the new Fair Work Bill.
 
This is a conference for lawyers, HR and IR practitioners, policy makers, researchers and government officials.
 
For more information about the conference please contact Karen Treacy on 02 9351 5624 or email Karen.
 
The full program is available from the Workplace Research Centre website.
 
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