IR news briefs … Victorian Senate passes low paid workers' bill


IR news briefs … Victorian Senate passes low paid workers' bill

The Federal Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said the Bill will address problems in the construction industry, which have lead to ‘higher prices, fewer jobs and a lower standard of living for all Australians’.


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Source: WorkplaceInfo


Vic low paid workers Bill passes the Senate; Government ditches university workplace relations requirements; Building and construction Bill passes House of Reps; Emerson blasts Andrews on mail security; Keeping older workers on the job; Victoria introduces new multilingual conciliation video; WA underemployment in the spotlight.

Vic low paid workers Bill passes the Senate

Victoria’s Schedule 1 A workers will now have access to the same minimum conditions as Federal Award workers after the Federal Workplace Relations Amendment (Improved Protection for Victorian Workers) Bill 2003 passed the Senate unamended today.

For more detail see: Parliament of Australia website and previous story Low paid Vic workers Bill before the Senate.

Government ditches university WR funding requirements

Workplace relations funding requirements were removed last night from the controversial Federal Higher Education Support Bill 2003.

‘The NTEU applauds the Senate’s rejection of the Government’s requirements linking over $400m of university funding to universities meeting workplace relations reforms.’ Dr Carolyn Allport, National President Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) said.

‘This is a recognition that the Government’s requirements had nothing to do with the sustainability and quality of higher education but were driven purely by its ideological industrial relations agenda.’

The only workplace relations requirement universities must adhere to is that certified agreements made after 22nd September 2003 must include a clause saying that universities may offer Australian Workplace Agreements.

But despite the amendments, Allport said the Bill still contained ‘a number of fundamental flaws’ relating to increased student fees, the expansion of full fee paying places, inappropriate indexation of funding and the retention of the Minister’s discretion over which courses will attract funding.

‘We are extremely disappointed with the AVCC who capitulated to Government pressure and failed to support amendments that would have removed these flaws and enshrined the principles of institutional autonomy and academic freedom into legislation.’

See previous related stories, Freedom at work is in the eye of the beholder and Improved paid maternity leave in Government snubbing ANU enterprise agreement.

Building and construction bill passes House of Reps

The Federal Government’s construction Bill may have passed unimpeded through the House of Representatives yesterday, but it will receive a thorough going over when it lands in the already convened Senate Committee inquiry.

The Bill seeks to establish a building watchdog, the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner; a Federal Safety Commissioner; new freedom of association rules; secret ballots before strikes; and new freedom of association rules (see previous story).

The Senate Committee will investigate the Bill and table a report in parliament early next year (see previous story).

The Federal Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said the Bill will address problems in the construction industry, which have lead to ‘higher prices, fewer jobs and a lower standard of living for all Australians’.

It is an opportunity to address the findings by the Cole Royal Commission, he said.

‘The Commission found a lawless industry with a deep-seated culture of disregard for the criminal, civil and industrial laws.

‘These problems are a serious national concern and the Government is committed to reform, for the benefit of all Australians.’

But, according to the Shadow Federal Workplace Relations Minister, Craig Emerson:  ‘The Building and Construction Industry Improvement Bill 2003 and the Building and Construction Industry Improvement (Consequential and Transitional) Bill 2003 essentially is designed to weaken the bargaining power of those workers in the building and construction industry who choose to be represented by trade unions.

‘That is what it comes down to in the end.

‘There is a very complex set of provisions in this legislation, but they are all designed to make it harder for workers who choose to be represented by trade unions to achieve their aspirations for secure pay, working conditions and safety.’

For a copy of the Bill, visit the Federal Parliament website.

Emerson blasts Andrews on mail security

The Government’s ‘anti-union’ stance is delaying the building of a new airmail screening facility at Tullamarine airport and endangering Victorians, claims Shadow Federal Workplace Relations Minister Craig Emerson.

However, the Federal Minister for Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, said all mail entering Australia through Melbourne was being screened.

Emerson claims work on the new airmail screening facility has not started because the Federal Government only wants non-union companies working on the project.

‘No construction company has been able to fulfil the Minister’s strict anti-union requirements for this project, even though several project proponents have had legally registered workplace agreements.’

According to Emerson construction has been delayed by 18 months.

Emerson asked Andrews, in Parliament yesterday:‘Can the minister confirm that not a sod has been turned on this vital project because he and his colleague the Minister for Health have overridden legally registered certified agreements and prevented the project from going ahead?

‘Why has the government failed to protect the security of Australian families when they collect their Christmas mail?’

Initially, Andrews avoided answering the question. Instead he talked about the Government’s building industry code of practice, the building industry interim task force and flexibility, choice and freedom in Australian industrial relations.

Later he decided to add to the answer. He said: ’100 per cent of overseas mail entering Australia through Melbourne airport is currently being screened.’

For more information, got to Hansard.

Keeping older workers on the job

The Australian Public Service (APS) is introducing new guidelines to stem the loss of experienced older workers and to better address their workplace needs.

The Federal Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said: ‘While Australia’s employment record has been strong, we have yet to seriously confront the trend of early retirement and the need to keep more mature-age workers in the workforce.’

Federal Government figures predict a quarter of the APS’s 131,711 staff could leave in the next five years.

Andrews said:  ‘Many are senior executives the people with the most experience, the largest professional networks and greatest corporate knowledge the very workers you want to keep.’

But while there is concern over the predicted loss, Andrews said the number of people leaving before their 55 birthday dropped from 550 in 2001-02 to 479 in 2002-03 the first drop in a decade.

The new guidelines, Implementing organisational renewal: Mature aged workers in the APS (2003), recognise the needs of older workers and include the development of flexible working conditions, phased retirement, and less demanding roles to achieve abetter work/life balance.

For detail on the guidelines go tothe APS website then scroll down to Implementing organisational renewal: Mature aged workers in the APS (2003).

Victoria introduces new multilingual conciliation video

A multi-lingual video to help parties resolve workers compensation disputes through conciliation was launched today in Victoria.

The video in English, Croatian, Greek, Italian, Macedonian, Serbian, Turkish and Vietnamese explains the conciliation process, how to prepare and what to expect.

The video Resolving Workers Compensation Disputes - The Conciliation Process is produced by the Victorian Accident Compensation Conciliation Service.

For a copy of the video call (03) 99401111.

WA underemployment in the spotlight

Flexibility and fairness are the solutions to underemployment, says the Western Australian Industrial Relations Minister, John Kobelke.

Some 30 per cent of the WA workforce is working part-time one of the highest incidents of part-time work among OECD countries, Mr Kobelke said recently.

On average, WA part-time workers spend 17 hours per week at work. An Australia-wide survey suggests that part-time workers want more work, he said.

To address under employment, the WA Government want workplace flexibility to become more of a two-way street where employee concerns are also on the agenda, not just those of employers, he said.

Fairness in the workplace and EEO will also help the cause, he added.

To achieve this aim, an inquiry into unfair discrimination in the workplace will be set up to look at ways of reducing the gender wage gap, temporary work contracts and part-time contracts; and developing family friendly policy.

The WA Government will also review labour market training programs to asses their cost and training effectiveness.

For more information go to the Western Australia Parliament website.

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