Proposed IR changes: battle to downgrade ABCC lost; new Fair Dismissal Code

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Proposed IR changes: battle to downgrade ABCC lost; new Fair Dismissal Code

Deputy Prime Minister and IR Minister, Julia Gillard has warned Labor's back bench dissenters that the ABCC will remain unchanged until it is replaced on 1 January, 2010, and has given more detail on the new Fair Dismissal Code.

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Deputy Prime Minister and IR Minister, Julia Gillard has warned Labor’s back bench dissenters that the ABCC will remain unchanged until it is replaced on 1 January, 2010, and has given more detail on the new Fair Dismissal Code.

Answering questions after her National Press Club address Gillard was unequivocal - ‘I can guarantee we'll deliver on our election commitment, which is that the ABCC will stay until 31 January 2010, with all of its powers and all of its budget,’ she said.

Caucus is due to discuss a motion next week that the ABCC’s draconian powers be reduced, but Gillard is having none of it.

Gillard said that one of the things Labor members of Parliament ‘most particularly’ cared about were the ‘circumstances of working Australians’.

‘Will deliver on election promises’

‘And you'd expect people to raise issues that are on their mind from time to time and we're going through that process,’ she said. ‘But the Government will deliver on its election commitments.’

The ABCC would stay as it is until it was replaced by a specialist inspectorate within Fair Work Australia.

Gillard also said the new Fair Dismissal Code would be the benchmark by which it could be established whether a worker had been sacked fairly or unfairly. This is designed particularly to assist small business.

Dismissals Code -small business

She said if small business operators were dismissing an employee they could they could work their way through the code using it as a checklist. 

‘If that employee then took an unfair dismissal claim to Fair Work Australia, in the first instance, there would be a very informal disputes resolution process where the principal question would be has the code been complied with, and if it has, then the proceedings would end at that point because the dismissal is not unfair,’ she said.

‘If an unfair dismissal claim was made in circumstances where there was a disputation, the employer hadn't used the code for example, and it wasn't able to be resolved through a first instance informal process, then it would go to a decision-maker in Fair Work Australia.’

Gillard also provided more detail on employer lockouts, and partial docking of pay for partial work bans. She said employers would no longer be able to unilaterally lock out workers if they were in the workplace.

New lockout rules

‘If employees are there and they've got partial work bans in place then we're saying employers have got the same choices they've got now,’ she said. ‘They can accept partial work performance as full work performance and give people full pay or they can say to the employees we're going to lock you out until you're prepared to come back and fully perform your contract of employment, no work bans.'

‘We're going to create a third option that the employer could serve a partial work performance notice on employees and say you're banning 20% of what you normally do, and so we're going to deduct 20% of your pay, and if there is disputation about those percentage levels then it would be sorted out by Fair Work Australia.'

‘So we think that that gives people a third option which will be useful to all sides, useful to employers confronted with partial work bans. It also gives a way of managing industrial conflict that doesn't necessarily resolve in full lockouts and stand downs.’


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