Murray puts kybosh on Vic workers bill

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Murray puts kybosh on Vic workers bill

The Federal Government's attempt to slightly increase the conditions of Victoria's lowest-paid workers, but still not to the level of other employees around Australia, is set for failure after the Democrats labelled it 'politically dumb', saying it ignored morality and logic.

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The Federal Government's attempt to slightly increase the conditions of Victoria's lowest-paid workers, but still not to the level of other employees around Australia, is set for failure after the Democrats labelled it 'politically dumb', saying it ignored morality and logic.

Australian Democrats Senator Andrew Murray, sitting on the Senate committee looking into the Workplace Relations Amendment (Improved Protection for Victorian Workers) Bill 2002, said under Schedule 1A of the Federal Workplace Relations Act, 600,000 Victorian workers were 'effectively operating under an inferior system'.

Murray said in his report that it was 'never intended that Schedule 1A workers should remain trapped there or that the number of workers in that category should grow'.

He said the Bill 'undoubtedly' improved the lot of Schedule 1A workers - those not covered by federal awards and agreements. It allows for seven minimum conditions rather than the current five.

But Murray said there was 'no justification whatsoever for not moving those workers under the conditions enjoyed by other Victorians', especially for those believing, as the Democrats and Coalition did, in the 'obvious virtues' of a unitary IR system.

'There is no doubt at all that the Victorian Government agrees with that proposition and it is the Federal Government which is refusing to carry through the logic and morality implicit in originally unifying the Victorian and federal systems,' he said.

'That attitude is unacceptable. It is also politically dumb because it provides a great and unfortunate incentive for the Victorian Government to try to recreate a State system.'

The Victorian Government recently attempted to refer powers to the Commonwealth so the AIRC could make common-rule awards for Victorian employees. They would then be covered by the 20 minimum conditions of other workers, rather than the seven stipulated under the bill. That Bill was voted down in the Upper House (see 323/2002).

The two Labor members of the committee referred to a link between Schedule 1A and increasing casualisation of the workforce, and said they would recommend amendments to Schedule 1A to allow the Commonwealth to apply common-rule awards with their 20 minimum conditions.

The three Government Senators said the costs associated with having industry comply with award rates meant the Bill should pass in its current form.

'Government party senators believe that the provisions of this Bill offer the most orderly and reliable means of ensuring that improved protection of conditions of employees under Schedule 1A can be achieved without threat to job security,' they said.

'The flexibility of Schedule 1A ensures that it must retain its central place in the Victorian industrial relations system: the lynch pin of the unitary system which marks Victoria as the leading state in workplace relations reform.'

Among those appearing before the Senate committee's public hearings in Melbourne two weeks ago, the Australian Industry Group objected to the Bill, saying it was unfair for both employers and employees for the Federal Government to continue an unequal situation (see 351/2002).

 

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