NSW Govt smashes first crack in Howard's IR laws


NSW Govt smashes first crack in Howard's IR laws

The NSW Government is moving to fracture the national IR system being set up under the WorkChoices legislation by removing 186,000 State public servants from potential federal control.


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The NSW Government is moving to fracture the national IR system being set up under the WorkChoices legislation by removing 186,000 State public servants from potential federal control.

As well, all consent awards in the State system will become agreements, to prevent them being deemed to be notional federal agreements under the new federal system. They will thus not be subject to the Fair Pay Conditions Standards.

Who's affected?

Premier Morris Iemma announced in State Parliament today that employees such as nurses, ambulance officers, bus drivers, TAFE teachers and home care workers would no longer be employed by corporatised entities such as Area Health Boards and the State Transit Authority.

Instead they will be directly employed as public servants. Only employees of corporations (except for Victoria which has ceded its IR powers to the Federal Government) will be covered by WorkChoices legislation, which has been constructed under the Federal Corporations powers.

Powers of Industrial Commission to be extended

In addition, the powers of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission will be extended to allow it to rule on common law agreements between employers and workers.

‘By allowing the Commission to hear common law disputes, employers and employees can continue using the efficient and popular NSW Commission,’ Iemma said.

More details

Iemma said legislation is not required to cover police or teachers, because their current employment arrangements already insulate them from WorkChoices.

‘Employees like nurses, ambulance officers and bus drivers are vulnerable because they are employed by corporatised entities,’ he said.

The legislation will remove the ability of Area Health Services and 51 other statutory corporations, authorities and agencies to employ staff. Instead, staff will be employed by the Government in the service of the Crown under legislation including the Public Sector Employment and Management Act. The change will not affect any entitlements.

The agencies named in the legislation are as diverse as the Police Integrity Commission, the State Transit Authority, the Cancer Institute and the Sydney Catchment Authority.

State-owned corporations

The legislation does not extend to State owned corporations because they are independent of government, however Iemma said alternative measures are being considered to protect these employees.

He said the new legislation was intended to ‘protect the state’s vital frontline workers and limit the impact of the Commonwealth’s divisive Work Choices legislation’.

Reasoning behind legislation

‘WorkChoices has been designed to reduce wages, conditions and entitlements and it is a recipe for workplace conflict and disruption,’ Iemma said.

‘The NSW Government is acting decisively to protect its own workforce; to help private sector businesses who want to continue using our harmonious system; and to guarantee the essential services that taxpayers rely on.’

‘These reforms will provide the community and vulnerable sectors of the workforce in particular, with as much protection as we can offer in the face of the Howard Government’s unfair, divisive and destructive laws,’ Iemma said.

‘Frontline personnel like nurses, ambulance officers and bus drivers should not be dragged into unproductive industrial disputes in a Commonwealth industrial relations experiment.

‘The WorkChoices model has no efficient and fair way to resolve disputes; it simply gives employers the power to sack staff at will. That is no solution for a large and essential public service workforce.’

Attack on Federal Government

Iemma said the Commonwealth model’s ‘failures’ can be clearly seen in the Boeing dispute at Williamtown where 25 well-qualified aircraft engineers manned pickets for almost a year.

‘NSW taxpayers don’t want similar Work Choices-inspired picket lines around their hospitals, schools or other frontline services; it is a lousy way to resolve disputes and it would devastate our essential services,’ Iemma said.

‘The NSW Government has given a commitment to its workforce to treat its employees with respect and to honour all wages, salary and conditions agreements, regardless of the divisive federal legislation.’

Iemma said his government is ‘standing up to the Commonwealth to protect our workforce and to safeguard the essential services relied upon by NSW taxpayer’.


State Governments' reaction to Federal IR agenda



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