Beattie rushes through laws to protect workers’ conditions

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Beattie rushes through laws to protect workers’ conditions

The Queensland Government has rushed legislation into State Parliament to protect wages and conditions from being undermined by the Howard Government’s planned IR changes.

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The Queensland Government has rushed legislation into State Parliament to protect wages and conditions from being undermined by the Howard Government’s planned IR changes.

Standing orders were suspended and sitting hours extended to get the legislation through.

Premier Peter Beattie said it was necessary to push the legislation through quickly to stop the Howard Government ‘abusing’ its power in Federal Parliament to take control of the industrial relations system now that it controls the Senate.

‘I don’t make any apology for this . . . if we leave it any longer, we will be too late,’ he said.

Enshrining employment rights

Beattie’s legislation enshrines basic employment conditions and entitlements of Queensland workers, including long-service leave, redundancy pay and holiday loading.

The Federal Government will have to legislate to override these conditions if it is to reduce minimum standards and force employees to bargain for the rest.

In Federal Parliament, Prime Minister John Howard refused to say whether his industrial relations reforms, expected to be introduced in October, would overrule the State legislation.

Debate on the industrial relations laws continued in State Parliament last night and they are expected to be passed today during a special sitting.

Opposition reaction

National and Liberal MPs accused the Premier of a ‘stunt’ ahead of next week’s by-elections.

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said he had no problem with trying to legislate to ensure minimum standards for workers in Queensland.

‘But that doesn’t mean our support extends to something that has not been legally tested and provides false hope for many working Queenslanders,’ he said.

Contents of Bill

The Bill will amend the Act to:

  1. encourage the adoption of wage structures that encourage the development of employees’ skills;
  2. ensure that apprentices who complete their apprenticeships are paid at least the minimum trade rate relevant to their trade;
  3. ensure that the overall pay and conditions for outworkers are fair and reasonable when compared with the pay and conditions of workers who perform the same work at the employer’s premises under a relevant award; and
  4. provide particular categories of employees with the following additional minimum entitlements:
    1. jury service make-up pay;
    2. 38 hour ordinary working week;
    3. paid overtime;
    4. unpaid meal breaks of at least 30 minutes after 5 hours’ work;
    5. annual leave loading of 17.5 per cent;
    6. casual loading of 23 per cent;
    7. shift loadings of 12.5 per cent for afternoon shift and 15 per cent for night shift;
    8. overtime rates for working on public holidays;
    9. weekend penalty rates of 25 per cent for Saturday work and 50 per cent for Sunday work;
    10. redundancy payments; and
    11. require employees to give at least one week’s notice of termination to their employers.

Explanatory memorandum

The explanatory notes to the Bill state:

Currently, the federal legislation requires federal agreements to pass the ‘no disadvantage’ test, which involves an independent tribunal (the Australian Industrial Relations Commission) comparing the agreement against the relevant minimum safety net award to ensure that employees on agreements are generally no worse off.

Federal awards which operate as this benchmark currently contain up to 20 employment conditions. The Federal Government proposes to replace the no disadvantage test with a comparison between federal agreements and five bare minima, which will be determined by the federal Government and the proposed Australian Fair Pay Commission.

In other words, federal agreements will be allowed to contain just five bare minimum conditions and these agreements will take precedence over federal awards, State awards and State protective legislation, such as the parental leave standards in Queensland’s Act.

The federal legislation allows these agreements to be presented to prospective employees on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis.

There is no indication, at this stage, whether the above federal proposals will affect employees under State awards and agreements. However, the Federal Government has announced that it will attempt to create a national industrial relations system based on the ‘corporations power’ and, if it is successful, it could attempt to extend the above proposals to all State employees working for ‘constitutional corporations’.

Details

This Act commences 1 September 2005.

The explanatory notes are available here.

The text of the Bill is available here.

Related

Current Qld IR legislation

States won't cop 'unfair' national workplace system - Labor

 

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