NSW Govt warns local Councils: 'Don't touch WorkChoices'


NSW Govt warns local Councils: 'Don't touch WorkChoices'

The NSW Government has threatened local Councils in the State with legal action if they try to apply the WorkChoices regime to their employees.


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The NSW Government has threatened local Councils in the State with legal action if they try to apply the WorkChoices regime to their employees.

NSW Minister for Industrial Relations, John Della Bosca, and Minister for Local Government, Paul Lynch, are writing to the Mayors and General Managers of the State's 152 councils warning they will face legal action if they attempt to 'force their workers into the unfair WorkChoices regime'.

Make agreements invalid

They said legal proceedings would be brought against Councils to make employment agreements under WorkChoices invalid.

'A total of 89 - or 59% - of Councils have already taken advantage of amendments by the Iemma Government to the NSW Industrial Relations Act which allow them to reject WorkChoices and stay with the fair and proven State system,' Della Bosca said. 'This is an overwhelming vote of no confidence in WorkChoices and our advice will make the situation much clearer for Councils.'

No certainty

Della Bosca said the Howard Government's reliance on the Corporations Powers of the Australian Constitution does not provide certainty as to which employers fall under the WorkChoices legislation.

'This is a fact that has been backed up by the submissions of the Solicitor-General in the WorkChoices High Court case last year.

'More recently, the Commonwealth Minister, Joe Hockey, admitted not only was local government and WorkChoices a "grey area of the law" but it "depends on the structure of the Council and the vehicle that is being used for employment … "

'This is a clear demonstration of how complex and confusing WorkChoices is when not even the Minister responsible for the laws can be certain about who is covered by his legislation.'

Commission rules Council not covered

Last month the senior commissioner in the WA Industrial Relations Commission (WAIRC) ruled a local Council in WA is not covered by WorkChoices legislation.

The Commissioner focused on whether the Council was 'trading' to the degree that it would be considered a trading corporation for WorkChoices purposes. The decision was that the commercial activities of the Council were too minor in the total scale of Council activities to make the Council a trading corporation.

It followed, that an unfair dismissal claim by a former caravan park manager employed by the Council was able to proceed, as the WAIRC had jurisdiction.

Legal complexities

NSW Local Government Minister Lynch said, in view of the legal complexities around the constitutional status of local governments, the State Government was advising all Councils to stay with the Local Government (State) Award.

'The Award provides the basis for fair conditions for employees, certainty for employers and a dispute resolution system through the NSW Industrial Relations Commission that is both simple and effective,' he said.

Attack on conditions

'That is because WorkChoices is an attack on the wages, conditions and living standards of, not only frontline council workers such as childcare workers, librarians, gardeners and road workers, but all hard-working Australian families.

'It removes the safety net of the Award system, it removes the independent umpire and it removes rights and entitlements that define the Australian concept of the fair go.'


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