Unions' 'WorkChoices Lite' claim is absurd, says Gillard


Unions' 'WorkChoices Lite' claim is absurd, says Gillard

IR Minister Julia Gillard has described as 'absurd' union claims that Labor's new workplace relations system is little more than 'WorkChoices Lite'.


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IR Minister Julia Gillard has described as ‘absurd’ union claims that Labor’s new workplace relations system is little more than ‘WorkChoices Lite’.

In an interview on ABC radio Gillard rejected that description, saying the Government had already got rid of the worst part of WorkChoices, AWAs, which put working people were at risk of having their safety net stripped away and losing basic pay and conditions.

Fair bargaining system

‘We’re bringing into operation a fair bargaining system, rights for unfair dismissals,’ Gillard said. ‘We’re bringing into operation a new industrial umpire.'

‘These are all things that WorkChoices rejected.  Work Choices was about the safety net being stripped away, about making sure that there were things that people couldn’t bargain on.'

‘There was no fair bargaining stream, there was prohibited content. Work Choices stripped away unfair dismissal rights for up to 100 employees and of course Work Choices was about neutering the industrial umpire.'

Gillard was asked whether the Government was also introducing a system where there are things that can’t be bargained on, when they had said before the election that employers and employees would be free to bargain on anything they wanted.

Prohibited content

‘WorkChoices had a list of prohibited content and when people made agreements, the Workplace Authority would spend time scratching out clauses it didn’t like,’ Gillard said.

‘What we’re going to do instead is have a bargaining stream where people can bargain over matters that are important to their workplace - things that matter at work and are about the employment relationship'

‘At the moment, under WorkChoices you can’t bargain about getting things like payroll deductions for child care or for health insurance.'

‘Now we say that they are matters that properly relate to the relationship between the employer and the employees and they should be able to be bargained on. So we are freeing up bargaining, it’s got to be bargaining about the workplace and work itself.’

Asked whether employers and employees could bargain on greenhouse emissions Gillard said many employers will want to change the way work is performed.

Change work patterns

‘They’ll want to find low energy efficient ways of doing what they do now,’ she said. ‘Now if that changes the pattern of work then of course it can be bargained about. If that means that shift arrangements are going to be different or the way in which work is going to be performed is different, that can be bargained about.'

‘What can’t be bargained about are things completely extraneous to the workplace, for example a demand that the employer donate regularly to a climate change advocacy group.’

Gillard said employers have got some complaints about Forward with Fairness regarding collective bargaining, and unions also had complaints.

‘I think that means we’ve got the balance right,’ she said.


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