Opposition increases as Howard reforms come closer

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Opposition increases as Howard reforms come closer

The NSW Minister for Industrial Relations, John Della Bosca, has called on Prime Minister Howard to withdraw his plans for radical industrial relations changes in the face of ‘overwhelming opposition from a broad section of Australian society’.

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The NSW Minister for Industrial Relations, John Della Bosca, has called on Prime Minister Howard to withdraw his plans for radical industrial relations changes in the face of ‘overwhelming opposition from a broad section of Australian society’. Meanwhile, NSW unions are planning to take their anti-IR changes campaign to the Bush and hold town hall meetings at which local Coalition MPs will be invited to defend the Howard Government’s planned workplace legislation.  

Drop IR changes because of  public uproar, Della Bosca tells Howard 

The NSW Minister for Industrial Relations, John Della Bosca, has called on Prime Minister Howard to withdraw his plans for radical industrial relations changes in the face of ‘overwhelming opposition from a broad section of Australian society’. 

Opposition from churches

Della Bosca said the leaders of the Anglican and Catholic churches in NSW had joined the Uniting Church, the Federal Council of the Liberal Party, all State and Territory governments at the weekend in opposing Howard’s planned legislation. 

‘A growing list of people oppose this attack on employees, their families and the more vulnerable in our society,’ Della Bosca said. 

‘I call on the Prime Minister to stop his divisive course of action and to commence genuine consultation with the States and Territories on an alternative proposal,’ he said. 

On Friday last week the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry also called on the Government to bring about a national IR system through consultation with the States rather than direct legislation, saying that was the ‘best’ method. 

Della Bosca said the three major Christian churches had nothing to gain by opposing the Howard Government. 

‘Their strong opposition should send a clear message to both Howard and his Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, that stripping away rights and protections will plunge Australia into an era of workplace conflict and unfairness,’ he said. 

‘With no umpire, no protection from unfair dismissal, the loss of the award safety net and a plan to reduce minimum wages, people will need to work longer and seek extra jobs to make ends meet. 

‘They will have less time to spend with their families and the social consequences will be devastating.’

Della  Bosca said it would be ‘an arrogant abuse of power’ for the Prime Minister to proceed in the face of this comprehensive opposition. 

‘Howard must announce a change of direction and commence consultation with the States, employers, unions and the Australian community,’ he said.

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Unions taking their anti-IR changes campaign to the Bush 

Meanwhile, unions are planning to take their anti-IR changes campaign to the Bush and hold town hall meetings at which local Coalition MPs will be invited to defend the Howard Government’s planned workplace legislation.

Unions NSW Secretary John Robertson told Channel 10’s Meet the Press program that unions planned to continue the momentum that has been built up by their television.

‘One thing we will do is go out into regional and rural NSW and hold town hall meetings and invite the local MPs to come along and put forward the alternate view to ours so that people get the opportunity to ask questions of me and ask questions of the Government,’ Robertson said.

True impact of changes

Robertson said it was the unions’ experience that ‘once people hear the impact of these changes, they’re quite concerned about it’.

‘They become rather alarmed about it and the likely impact that it’s going to have on them and, more importantly, their local communities and their families,’ he said.

‘These changes potentially mean people will lose the opportunity to spend time with their families on weekends. They’re going to lose things like penalty rates. There’s now talk you’ll be able to trade away your annual leave. '

Unfair dismissals

Robertson said once the changes go through employers won’t leave themselves open for unlawful dismissal action but will sack employees on ‘performance’ issues.

‘What you’ll see happen is all of a sudden performance becomes an issue,’ he said.

‘There’ll be a record about performance and they’ll be dismissed on those grounds in those circumstances.

‘I’ve seen that happen over the years and those employers who want to get rid of people for those reasons won’t terminate because of family responsibilities but terminate for performance.’

Collective agreements v AWAs

In response to a statement that Labor seemed to be softening its policy of abolishing AWAs, Robertson said: ‘Well, that seems to be the case and our campaign is very much about shifting public opinion so that, in fact, we can get the Federal Labor Party to come out and say they are going to abolish AWAs.’

‘AWAs, for many people already, aren’t the individual contract where you sit down across the table from your employer and negotiate one-on-one,’ he said.

‘What we’re experiencing already is workers are being locked out by the employer and being told they can’t come back to work until they agree to sign an individual contract.

‘They are not being offered to sit down and negotiate the terms of that contract. They are told if you want your job to continue here those are the terms you will sign up to.’ 

Robertson said the situation at the Williamstown RAAF Base, with the Boeing employees who maintain the F/A-18 Hornet jets was ‘a classic example’. 

‘They are now into the tenth week of a lockout and the only reason they have been locked out is they have said “we want a collective agreement” and Boeing has said “we want you to sign individual contracts”,’ he said.’   

Robertson said it was time Opposition Leader Kim Beazley made a clear statement on Labor’s policy on AWAs. 

Upcoming acirrt conference on IR changes

Acirrt and the Faculty of Law from the University of Sydney will present a conference in Sydney on the proposed Federal IR changes on 8 September. 

Labour Law 2005: What the Future Holds will bring together leading barristers and solicitors along with distinguished IR academic experts to help you make sense of the federal IR reforms. The speakers will offer insights into the opportunities and threats emerging from the new legal environment. It is aimed at employers, HR professionals, operations managers, practitioners, lawyers, union officials and consultants.

For more details and bookings, go to the acirrt site.

Related

Federal IR changes 2005  

  

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