Union leader calls for retrospective IR reforms

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Union leader calls for retrospective IR reforms

A major element of the trade union movement is pushing for the new Labor Government to introduce retrospective IR legislation to get workers out of the WorkChoices system more rapidly

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A major element of the trade union movement is pushing for the new Labor Government to introduce retrospective IR legislation to get workers out of the WorkChoices system more rapidly.

John Robertson, Unions NSW Secretary, has rejected the view put forward by the ACTU leadership yesterday that a 'step by step' approach by Labor was acceptable.

Priorities

ACTU President, Sharan Burrow said the priorities of the union movement were the restoration of the award safety net, the right to collectively bargain, the return of an independent industrial umpire, and the abolition of AWAs.

ACTU Secretary, Jeff Lawrence said the timing of the abolition of WorkChoices and whether Federal Parliament should sit before Christmas to push through workplace changes was up to the new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.

Robertson said Labor should consider introducing retrospective laws so employees could escape AWAs if they had been forced to sign them on a 'take it or leave it' basis - however he accepted Labor might need time to draft new workplace legislation.

Move quickly

However, he was concerned that many employees would remain under WorkChoices well into 2008, unless Labor moved quickly.

'There are already some in this Government trying to rewrite history as though it had nothing to do with Howard's workplace laws,' he said. 'They were the platform for Kevin Rudd to launch himself [as the alternative Prime Minister] - it was WorkChoices and the "Your Rights at Work" campaign.'

Robertson said employees in businesses with fewer than 100 staff still faced unfair dismissal and workers would continue to be signed up under AWAs that could last for up to five years.

AWAs for five years 'ridiculous'

'I've been talking to people on AWAs, especially those negotiated for up to five years - it's just ridiculous,' he said. 'You could legislate. There is an opportunity to say you are not going to have the situation where people signed AWAs but were given no choice, except that it was the only way to get a job.'

Victorian ETU Secretary, Dean Mighell, who was forced to resign from the ALP by Rudd in May for abusing employers, said this new Government had the 'worst' IR policy of any Labor Government.

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