New IR laws ‘worse than expected’, says ACTU

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New IR laws ‘worse than expected’, says ACTU

The Federal Government’s new IR legislation has ‘confirmed everything that unions had been warning the community about, and worse’, says the ACTU.

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The Federal Government’s new IR legislation has ‘confirmed everything that unions had been warning the community about, and worse’, says the ACTU. 

However employer organisations quite like it.  

ACTU reaction

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said the new laws will strip away 100 years of respect for workers’ rights, remove legal protection for many employment conditions and will set a new low for the future workplace conditions of Australian workers. 

‘Now that we know the detail, this legislation confirms all of our criticisms of the Government's plans,’ he said. 

‘Unfair dismissal rights are gone for nearly four million workers, individual contracts will be able to cut take home pay and basic conditions, the award safety net is to be removed as the no-disadvantage test which underpins workplace bargaining, the real value of minimum wages will be allowed to fall, and workers will have no enforceable legal right to collectively bargain. 

‘Under these laws, unions can be fined $33,000 and individual workers $6,600 for even asking for workers to be protected from unfair dismissal or individual contracts, or for clauses that protect job security. 

‘The Government is knowingly misleading the public. Penalty rates, public holidays, overtime pay, control over the roster, shift penalties - none of these conditions will be protected by law.’

Urgent laws should pass quickly  - ACCI 

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) called on all parliamentarians to ‘pass these reforms as a matter of urgency’. 

Peter Hendy, ACCI chief executive said Australia is ‘finally about to abandon the horse and buggy era of workplace relations which was set up on a model for the 1890s and move to a model for the 21st century’. 

‘Australia cannot secure higher employment without fundamentally reforming our workplace relations laws,’ he said.  

‘The Work Choices amendments implement some extremely important reforms for Australia. They will deliver real operational flexibility, simplicity and clarity to employers and employees in our workplaces.  

‘Despite the extent of the amending legislation, significant fuss and complication will be removed from the way workplace relations laws affect the day to day rights and capacities of employers and employees.’ 

Concern state small business excluded  - ABL 

Australian Business Limited (ABL) said the changes ‘will ensure workplaces in Australia continue to thrive’. 

‘It’s certainly a large piece of legislation with a lot of detail, but this needs to be put into perspective,’ Mark Bethwaite, ABL chief executive said.  

‘The legislation delivers significant improvements to existing unfair dismissal laws, draws together over time state and federal awards and will assist in the reduction of industrial action.

‘Our major concern is that thousands of small businesses in the State of NSW will be excluded from accessing these necessary reforms if the State Government fails to co-operate with the Federal Government. 

‘Had the remaining States referred their workplace relations powers to the Commonwealth, the legislation could have been simpler and shorter.    

‘Quite a lot of the detail in the legislation deals with transitional issues.  That’s to be expected, but it’s complicated by the fact that the legislation is bringing a range of different arrangements and practices under one Act.’ 

Onus now on state governments  - HIA 

The Housing Industry Association (HIA) said the onus is now on state governments to support what Australia needs – one flexible, borderless IR system. 

HIA managing director Ron Silberberg said the states must now decide where they stand. 

‘Once reform is implemented, states will regulate just 15% of the workforce,’ he said. 

‘If they choose to maintain state systems, they will prevent all those employees and business which are not incorporated from benefiting from the flexibility of the new system.

‘For the building and construction sector, reform will mean streamlined processes for making individual and collective agreements.   

‘Reform will not only free up workplaces; it will transform vocational education and training.  The awards system has been used by unions to block new training. Transferring responsibility for trainee wages to the Fair Pay Commission will see these industrial relations barriers to new training lifted.’ 

Democrats say Bill ‘irredeemable’

The Australian Democrats say Australian workers will ‘undoubtedly be worse off under the new “Less Choice” regime’. 

Workplace relations spokesman, Senator Andrew Murray said that the Democrats will be opposing the ‘Work Choice’ Bill and ruled out any hope of salvaging it. 

‘Any redeeming features of the Bill are overwhelmed by the negatives,’ he said. ‘Its basic philosophy is one we cannot accept. 

‘This Bill is based on ideology, and it will excessively tip the balance of workplace relations to favour employers, leaving many workers vulnerable. 

‘Many employers will also not be happy with the bill as it will creates uncertainty and it will force better employers to bring down their wages to compete with less scrupulous employers. 

‘This Bill will lower wages and conditions across whole industries to the detriment of living standards and to the detriment of the Australian economy and society.’ 

Pause for thought required - Families Australia 

Families Australia said the enormity of the proposed changes require extensive public consultation and discussion. 

‘Because the measures are so far-reaching, it is vital that Australians carefully consider the potential impacts, especially for society’s most vulnerable, for family wellbeing, and or work and family balance’, said Families Australia chief executive officer Brian Babington.

‘Ordinary Australians need time to consider and have their say about the planned changes. Feedback is that many families find it a challenge to assess the proposed changes. Getting their perspectives will undoubtedly help get the law right’, he said. 

Under class of working poor - Greens

The Australian Greens say the Government's Work Choices legislation will entrench a permanent underclass of working poor in Australia.  

‘The Government is promoting the legislation as providing for a simple, flexible and fair system of workplace laws,’ said Senator Rachel Siewert, Industrial Relations Spokeswoman.  

‘In fact, this is an extremely complex Bill the size of a phone book, which will take weeks to properly analyse and interpret. However, it is already strongly evident that millions of workers will be disadvantaged by the legislation.’

Related

Federal IR changes 2005  

 

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