Rudd's IR revolution

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Rudd's IR revolution

National system, strikes banned, new unfair dismissal rules Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd today announced a revolutionary new industrial relations system that would see IR nationalised for the private sector, all strikes banned without secret ballots, strike pay abolished and new unfair dismissal laws that will only apply after workers have served a minimum probation period.

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National system, strikes banned, new unfair dismissal rules

Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd today announced a revolutionary new industrial relations system that would see IR nationalised for the private sector, all strikes banned without secret ballots, strike pay abolished and new unfair dismissal laws that will only apply after workers have served a minimum probation period.

Confirms position on AWAs then drops bombshell

Rudd revealed the detail while addressing the National Press Club in Canberra, and reiterated that AWAs would be abolished. However it was the new detail that will possibly dismay the union movement and send Prime Minister John Howard and senior Ministers and advisers into panic meetings.

National IR system

He said a national IR system for the private sector would be achieved either by State Governments referring powers for their residual responsibilities for private sector industrial relations, or through other forms of co-operation and harmonisation.

‘I am greatly encouraged by the co-operative approach already taken by my State colleagues in discussions on this matter,' Rudd said. ‘Some States have already indicated they will be prepared to positively consider a referral under a Federal Labor Government's proposal for a fair and flexible industrial relations system.'

Rudd said Federal Labor intends to give sole traders, partnerships and companies a uniform industrial relations system.

He said current arrangements for the public sector and local government will continue, with many of these workers regulated by State industrial relations jurisdictions.

No strikes without secret ballot

Rudd said Australians understand that the country cannot afford to see increases in industrial disputes which put at risk Australia's global reputation.

‘There can be no going back to the industrial culture of an earlier age,' he said. ‘That is why … we will outlaw industrial action unless there is a secret ballot.'

Rudd said the only time industrial action will be legally permitted is if it is taken in pursuit of a collective enterprise agreement during a bargaining period.

‘And even then it will only be protected from legal penalty if it is authorised by the employees who will be taking the action through a secret ballot supervised by the independent industrial umpire,' he said.

Rudd said under Labor's IR system employees will not be able to strike during the term of a collective agreement.

Must bargain in good faith

‘They will not be able to strike unless there has been genuine good faith bargaining,' he said. ‘They will not be able to strike in support of an industry-wide agreement.'

In a savage blow to the union movement, Rudd said his Government would require mandatory secret ballots to authorise the taking of industrial action.

‘We require these clear, tough rules to make the point that industrial disputes are serious,' he said. ‘They hurt workers, they hurt businesses, they can hurt families and communities, and they certainly hurt the economy.'

Strike pay banned

Labor will also ban strike pay.

‘Industrial action comes at a cost to the economy,' Rudd said. ‘It therefore should not be without cost to those engaged in it. That's why under Labor's new laws it will also be unlawful for employers to pay strike pay.'

A Labor Government will also radically change the current unfair dismissal laws, while keeping them in slightly different forms for employers with more or fewer than 15 employees.

Rudd said Labor will give employers the opportunity to see how employees fit into their business, meet the requirements of the job, and work with colleagues and customers.

New unfair dismissal rules for small business

Under Labor's proposed system employees can only make an unfair dismissal claim when they have worked at least one year in a business with fewer than 15 employees. For businesses employing more than 15 people, employees will be exempt from unfair dismissal laws for six months.

‘We believe this passes the common sense test for small business,' he said. ‘A full year should give any small business operator the time to make an evaluation about whether new staff are going to fit into their business.'

Dismissal claims to be streamlined

Rudd said the process for dealing with all unfair dismissal claims will also be streamlined.

‘Labor's new industrial umpire will have local offices in regional and suburban areas and will be able to go to the workplace or any other agreed venue to resolve the claim,' he said.

Rudd said claims will need to be filed quickly — usually within seven days — and heard quickly.

No lawyers involved

‘There will be no lawyers involved,' he said. ‘Every endeavour will be made to resolve claims by discussion. If that can't be done, the umpire will make a quick decision so the parties can move on.'

Rudd said Labor recognised that small business owners don't usually have the time or expertise to go through complex procedures of repeatedly warning an employee about unsatisfactory performance, spacing written warnings correctly apart and complying with other legalistic processes.

Unfair dismissal code

He said that Labor will, in consultation with small business, develop a Fair Dismissal Code. The Code will be tailored to the needs of small business and will be reduced to a clear and concise reference to help these employers meet their obligations under Labor's simpler unfair dismissal system.

‘Where an employer has complied with the Code, the dismissal will be considered a fair dismissal,' Rudd said. ‘Labor's way forward is a better way forward for both employers and employees. It will be simpler, fairer and flexible — and will not throw a fair go at the workplace out the back door.'

Rudd said other elements of Labor's policy will be progressively released between now and the election.

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