NSW Government inquiry condemns WorkChoices

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NSW Government inquiry condemns WorkChoices

The ALP and Democrats majority on the NSW Upper House Inquiry on the 'Impact of the WorkChoices legislation' has called for the legislation to be withdrawn on the basis that it is 'hurting families across the State'.

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 The ALP and Democrats majority on the NSW Upper House Inquiry on the 'Impact of the WorkChoices legislation' has called for the legislation to be withdrawn on the basis that it is 'hurting families across the State'.

Attack on families - majority finding

Despite the recent High Court decision, the Committee was of the opinion that the ‘takeover’ of industrial relations in this country was an unreasonable and unwarranted move by the Federal Liberal/National Coalition Government to encroach upon the jurisdiction of the states and to impose its own industrial ideology on workers hitherto outside the federal industrial relations system.

While WorkChoices has been characterised by the Federal Liberal/National Coalition Government as ‘deregulation’ of the Australian industrial relations system, the degree of complexity, paperwork and bureaucracy it entails was surely unique in the developed world in the majority's view.

Minimum standards

In the Committee’s view, the erosion of minimum standards of employment completely changes the way the industrial relations system will work in the future in this country. In all likelihood, the current minimum conditions of employment set out in the AFPCS will become
the de-facto standard of employment for the vast majority of employees.

Prior to WorkChoices, an agreement would not pass the ‘no disadvantage test’ and could not come into force if it would result, on balance, in a reduction in the overall conditions of employment of the employees concerned, compared with applicable federal and state awards and legislation.

However, under WorkChoices, it is now possible for employers to make agreements, either individual or collective, that significantly reduce or eliminate existing award or statutory entitlements that previously applied. The only protection afforded to employees is that workplace agreements cannot legally offer less than the very basic entitlements enshrined in the AFPCS, or in separate standards relating to preserved award conditions.

Women, children and young people

The Committee studied in this report the significant adverse effects of WorkChoices on disadvantaged groups in the workplace – women, children and young people, people from culturally diverse and Aboriginal communities, and people from rural and regional areas – together with their families and the broader community.

The Committee recognised that the evidence on the final impact of WorkChoices will take several years to reveal itself. But based on the evidence available to date, the Committee found that WorkChoices is inherently unjust and will also cost our society and economy a great deal in the future.

The Committee called on the Federal Liberal/National Coalition Government to withdraw its unfair WorkChoices legislation.

Dissenting statement

The two Liberal Party dissenters, - Robyn Parker MLC (Deputy Chair) and Charlie Lynn MLC , noted that the inquiry served a purely political purpose on behalf of the NSW Labor Party and its allies in the union movement.

The Opposition members of the committee acknowledged that the Federal Liberal/National Coalition Government has introduced significant and necessary reform with its WorkChoices legislation:

' This report does not reflect the economic and industrial realities facing the Australian workforce. Nor does it seek adequate right of reply from employer groups. Instead, it almost exclusively addresses the concerns of a section of the community with strong ties to the Labor Party.'

Employers
 

Of the four ‘employer groups’ that did send submissions, only the Local Government Association of NSW outright condemned s the legislation.

As noted in a submission by the Motor Traders’ Association of NSW (MTA); 'It is the opinion of the MTA that the conduct of this inquiry is too soon to effectively gauge the impact of the Commonwealth WorkChoices Legislation.'

The Opposition members of the Committee noted with concern that the peak employer group in NSW, Australian Business Limited/The NSW State Chamber of Commerce (ABL) declined to make a submission to the inquiry, because the terms of reference omit any allusion to the social impacts of economic growth or job creation. ABL did state:

'Business supports WorkChoices because it will allow employers and employees to develop agreements that improve productivity and job satisfaction.'

Whilst the Committee received a total of 52 submissions from ‘major stakeholders’ with regard to WorkChoices, including the NSW Government, unions, welfare organisations and academics, the committee did not hear from employers themselves, nor were individual employers asked to give evidence until they had been subject to adverse commentary by third parties.

The Committee’s assertion that the WorkChoices scheme is unfair and represents a ‘radical neo-liberal agenda’ was rebuked by the very fact that on 1 December 2006, low paid employees will receive a substantial boost to their salaries , in the dissenters' view .

Limited consultation
 

In conclusion, the dissenters acknowledged a submission by one Mrs Cherry Stewart, received on 22 May 2006:

'From the notice of request for comments on the legislation to the close we have six weeks, for consideration of such  limited consultation, the committee has six months. Surely, consultation in such a diverse society takes longer than deliberation! This demonstrates a bias and lack of concern for the opinions of the public. It demonstrates a ‘'whitewash'’!'

Full report

To read the full report visit the NSW parliament website

Related

Business rejects NSW inquiry into WorkChoices



 

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