'What’s wrong with fair IR?' asks judge

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'What’s wrong with fair IR?' asks judge

Suggestions that ‘fairness’ is outmoded and unrepresented employees have equal power may have something to do with the uproar over the Federal Government’s proposed IR reforms, according to Justice Michael Walton of the NSW IRC.

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Suggestions that ‘fairness’ is outmoded and unrepresented employees have equal power may have something to do with the uproar over the Federal Government’s proposed IR reforms, according to Justice Michael Walton of the NSW IRC.

In an attempt to understand the controversy surrounding the reforms, Justice Walton recently dissected the proposed IR reforms underpinning issues in a recent speech to the University of Sydney’s School of Business.

Fairness

Justice Walton indicated that ‘Fairness’ as it applied to industrial relations had ‘seriously’ been questioned as an outmoded way of doing business because it was counter-productive to employment relationships, decision making or award and agreement making.

He feels such an approach is not only opposite to the current IR regime but the ethos of society. ‘By operation of the principles of fairness and equity, the current industrial relations system provides an effective safety-net for wages and conditions,’ he said

‘The New South Wales system has, in this respect, particular application for vulnerable work groups , such a women , migrants , the low paid and unskilled workers.’

Bargaining power

Suggestions that unrepresented employees would have equal bargaining power to employers were also underpinning some of the IR proposals.

He said that until now this notion was never taken seriously.

Collective disputes

Walton questioned suggested new approaches to regulating strikes and lockouts.

He believed the current system works well. ‘The dispute resolution mechanisms under industrial relations statutes and the establishment of wage-fixing principles to regulate wages and conditions have long played a role in effectively resolving disputes,’ he said.

‘I refer, for example, to the effective management of industrial relations in the power and steel industries in New South Wales where there can be no doubt that the industrial relations system have effectively diffused serious industrial problems.’

Lower wages

Suggestions that lowering wages and conditions will reduce unemployment were also knocked on the head. He says there is no evidence to support this.

Unfair dismissal

Getting rid of unfair dismissal laws was also problematic. He said that while 37% of unfair dismissals were settled by a ‘go away’ payment, it meant that there were many cases that ended up in the Commission; which indeed ‘vividly demonstrate that some decisions are in fact harsh, unjust or unreasonable’.

‘If one looks across the large number of cases dealt with by the Commission it is relatively easy to find cases of quite dire, capricious and harsh conduct towards dismissed employees.’

For the speech go here

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