New work styles require flexible laws, says Hockey

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New work styles require flexible laws, says Hockey

There are more kinds of jobs today than ever before, and WorkChoices and AWAs are providing the flexibility to accommodate these choices, Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, has told the National Press Club.

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There are more kinds of jobs today than ever before, and WorkChoices and AWAs are providing the flexibility to accommodate these choices, Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, has told the National Press Club.

In a speech this week Hockey said there is more opportunity in the job marketplace today than in the past.

'When I left school, people viewed their first career as their only career,' he said. 'Today's jobs and tomorrow's jobs are as diverse as our own imaginations.

'Who would have thought 20 years ago that you could have a career as an eco-tourism operator, mobile phone technician, mortgage broker or even a professional dog walker? Who would have thought in 1987 that the modern mailroom would sit on your desk?'

Number of careers

Hockey said he made a point of no longer asking young people what career they want to pursue, 'because during the course of their lives they are likely to have a number of careers'.

'Equally, some people in their sixties are also choosing new careers,' he said. 'For example last week in McLaren Vale I met a 60 year-old woman who was working as a pruner at a vineyard. She had enjoyed a number of careers during her workdays including working in a pharmacy and owning her own business.  This was her fourth career.

'Apart from the chance to work outdoors, she appreciated the option to take eight weeks holiday at half pay. During the busy harvest time she pitched in and worked 12 hour shifts, but with flexible start and finish times.'

Varied expectations

Hockey said Australia now has workplaces where workers offer different skills to an employer but have varied expectations about how they should be rewarded for their labour.

'I saw this in Townsville at a plumbing business where one young plumber didn't mind working long hours for greater financial reward,' he said. 'Another plumber thought it was more important to be able knock off early to pick up his kids after school and work a few hours every second Saturday instead.  Both, I might add, are on Australian Workplace Agreements.'

Hockey said today's workers are more flexible, more independent and more capable than a lot of people give them credit for.

'Under the old laws Government legislation and a rigid awards system used to define every workplace,' he said. 'It used to shape everything from the hours you worked, to the clothes you wore, to the food you ate.

Rigid and inflexible

'The legacy of this centralised control was that the labour market became rigid and inflexible. But this old system is not acceptable when your competitors can upgrade their technology on a regular basis such as software improvements in financial services or robotics in car manufacturing.

'So we have to have flexible workplace laws that allow workers either individually or collectively to negotiate with employers. The old system of union bosses at war with employers before the Industrial Relations Commission in Melbourne was a handbrake on innovation and a handbrake on jobs.'

Hockey said the Government's new workplace laws simply responded to the already changed and changing workplace.

Improve rosters

'By the time our laws came in, job-sharing, home based business, hot-desking and flexible hours were increasingly common,' he said.

'Last week in Kalgoorlie, workers told me how they were able to alter their agreements and improve their rosters. This meant they were able to spend more time with their families on a fly-in fly-out arrangement.

'Just down the road at the Kalgoorlie Nickel smelter, another company was encouraging the employment of female crane operators through family-friendly AWAs. Job sharing and shift sharing are far easier to achieve when you can enter into negotiations directly with your employer.

'This tends to be particularly important for female workers, and particularly female workers coming back into the workforce when they have had children.'

Choice

Hockey said that in the past 11 months, 112,000 workers have signed non-union collective agreements and 465,000 workers have signed union collective agreements.

'These numbers are far greater than the 266,702 AWAs that have been signed over the same period,' he said. 'In all those cases, negotiating parties have taken advantage of the flexibility WorkChoices offers. Where we differ with the trade union movement and the Labor Party is that we believe in the principle of choice.'

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