Unions welcome new IR laws, but not such a bargain for employers


Unions welcome new IR laws, but not such a bargain for employers

The Fair Work IR system is today up and running to the delight of the trade unions, but employers have been less enthusiastic in their support.


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The Fair Work IR system is today up and running to the delight of the trade unions, but employers have been less enthusiastic in their support.
IR Minister Julia Gillard said Fair Work brought back the ‘fair go’ to Australian workplaces.
She told ABC radio:
‘This is a very happy day for the Australian people.
The Australian people made it very clear to the Howard Government that they didn’t want WorkChoices and there was no single bigger issue at the 2007 election than whether or not Australians were going to have fairness and decency at work.
Australians voted for that fairness and decency and today it is delivered through the new Fair Work laws.’
Cooperation the key, says Gillard
Gillard said she now expected to see a cooperative enterprise bargaining based approach from unions, employees, employers and their organisations.
‘At the heart of these new laws is a safety net that everyone can rely on and above the safety net, bargaining based on the needs of an enterprise in good faith,’ she said.
‘So I expect to see cooperation and a focus on productivity.’
Questioned on the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union’s push for a 4% rise across 1300 agreements Gillard said she expected unions to make claims, in their members interest, they go out and say what their members want.
‘Knuckle down and bargain’
‘But what these laws provide is that people have to knuckle down at an enterprise level and bargain an agreement that is in the interest of that enterprise,’ she said.
‘That is what these laws are all about. That is what the agreement making is all about; the discussion has to happen in good faith and a deal has to be struck that suits that individual enterprise.’
The ACTU said the new laws represent ‘an historic step forward for the rights of working Australians and their families’.
A turning point, says ACTU
‘The new laws mark a turning point and will provide workers with a raft of stronger rights and protections in the current economic downturn, and in better times ahead,’ said ACTU president Sharan Burrow.
She said the new laws will deliver:
  • genuine rights for workers to collectively bargain and be represented by their union
  • unfair dismissal for all workers, including about 4 million workers who had no protection under WorkChoices
  • a robust new safety net of awards and national standards, along with a fair and transparent process for setting minimum wages
  • an industrial umpire with teeth to safeguard workers’ rights.
Greg Evans, acting chief executive of ACCI, said today is ‘a significant point in the history of Australia’s often controversial workplace relations laws’.
‘It marks the commencement of the Australian Government’s Fair Work legislation,’ he said.
‘It also sees the Government’s retitled and reinvigorated industrial tribunal, Fair Work Australia, open for business for the first time.’
ACCI sees big challenges
Evans said that for small businesses owners, one of the biggest challenges is their renewed exposure to the unfair dismissal laws, having been sheltered from their operation for the past three years.
‘Fair Work Australia’s recent appointment of 25 roaming conciliators to handle unfair dismissal matters highlights the upsurge in claims that can be expected from this change,’ he said.
Evans said the new so called ‘low paid sector’ mechanism that enables unions to target individual employers and to seek to negotiate with them as a group can also be expected to encompass many small businesses in various industry sectors. Fair Work Australia could also step in and arbitrate if those negotiations become deadlocked.
Enhanced union rights
He said that for big business the changes to bargaining and agreement making likely pose the greatest challenges.
That revamped framework now includes:
  • enhanced union representation rights
  • the potential to obtain ‘majority support determinations’
  • the new untested ‘bargaining in good faith’ obligations
  • the removal of the prohibited content list meaning that many more non-employment-related items will now be on the union bargaining wish list
  • the ability for a single agreement to now cover multiple employers.
Evans said the right-of-entry changes also mean unions no longer need to be a party to an award or an agreement at a particular workplace to be able to exercise right of entry at that location.
LHMU first in the door
The LHMU was parked outside the FWA offices this morning seeking a bargaining order for the luxury hotel sector.
However,40 of the largest hotels earlier this week announced they had signed 5000 workers up to three-year, non-union agreements.
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