NSW Councils want to abandon WorkChoices system

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NSW Councils want to abandon WorkChoices system

Local Councils in NSW will follow the Spotlight path next week and turn their backs on the AWA system because they are 'in a mess' with it.

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Local Councils in NSW will follow the Spotlight path next week and turn their backs on the AWA system because they are 'in a mess' with it.

Media reports say Local Government and Shires Associations Co-Presidents, Genia McCaffery and Bruce Miller, will write to Federal Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, next week, seeking an exemption from the system for the State's 152 councils.

The problem they face is whether Councils are constitutional corporations covered by the new workplace laws - which the Federal Government says they are but the NSW and Queensland Governments say they aren't.

Legal action

NSW Industrial Relations Minister, John Della Bosca, wrote to Councils last month threatening legal action if they joined WorkChoices.

The Queensland Government has launched similar action in the Federal Court against Etheridge Council.

'In a mess with this thing'

The Australian newspaper quoted McCaffery as saying: 'We're really in a mess with this thing.

'The Federal Government says we should pull out of the State award and the State Government says we're not allowed to go into WorkChoices. We are sick to death of being the meat in the sandwich.

'At the moment, we're getting hit for a pay rise under the award and hit for a pay rise under WorkChoices.'

Unions are about to launch a campaign to force NSW Councils to pass on a $27 a week pay rise due under WorkChoices, while also delivering the final part of a three-year, 20% pay increase under the relevant NSW award.

'They are covered,' says Hockey

A spokeswoman for Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, said Councils could not out opt of the system. 'The law is clear - constitutional corporations are covered by the Federal system,' she said.

McCaffery said the award system had worked well for Councils.

Business support unravelling, says ACTU

The ACTU said the move by the Councils is further evidence that business support for WorkChoices is unravelling.

'We have always known these laws are bad for workers and we are now seeing businesses decide they are also bad for employers,' said ACTU President, Sharan Burrow.

Unworkable

'The Howard Government's WorkChoices IR laws are a disaster for workers and an unworkable mess for employers.'

Opposition IR spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, said business was in a world of uncertainty because of the Government's extreme WorkChoices laws.

'[There is] uncertainty about what they needed to do to comply with these laws,' she said. 'Uncertainty about how to deal with the big bureaucracy [Prime Minister John] Howard has built. It showed that WorkChoices is the worst of all possible worlds. Workers could still get ripped off and business was in a world of uncertainty.'

She said that because of doubts about the constitutional reach of the Commonwealth, there are doubts about the legal circumstances of Local Councils.

End uncertainty

'This is a serious problem affecting thousands of workers around the country and their families,' Gillard said. 'And the only way of fixing this serious problem, ending this uncertainty, is for Hockey to sit round a table with his State Industrial Relations Ministers and to work out a solution.'

She said Hockey had an opportunity to attend a Ministerial Council with State Ministers last Friday, but instead chose to spend his time launching a party political website for the election campaign.

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