NSW IRC under threat after OHS changes

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NSW IRC under threat after OHS changes

The NSW Industrial Relations Commission is facing cutbacks and even possible abolition after the Minister responsible for industrial relations, Greg Pearce, said its workload has been ‘significantly reduced’.

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The NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) is facing cutbacks and even possible abolition after the Minister responsible for industrial relations, Greg Pearce, said its workload has been ‘significantly reduced’.

Pearce last week transferred the IRC’s OHS jurisdiction to other courts, after the state signed up for the new harmonised national OHS laws.

This caused a protest from IRC president, Roger Boland, who claimed Pearce had guaranteed the IRC would continue to handle such cases and that his action in removing them had been ‘disgraceful’.

However, yesterday in Parliament, Pearce said ‘I have never given any guarantee that the powers and jurisdictions of the IRC would [not] be changed as a result of the OHS reforms’.

Pearce also quoted from a speech he made on 13 May 2010, at which Boland had been present, which casts doubt on Boland’s claim of being misled.

Response in Parliament
 
Pearce claimed he said in the speech:
‘The reforms and the referral of powers to the Commonwealth have raised questions about existing Industrial Relations institutions in NSW. The NSW Liberals and Nationals have confirmed our support for the retention of the Industrial Relations Commission for resolving disputes concerning the State Public sector and Local government sectors.

The workload of the NSW IRC decreased significantly after the Howard government’s WorkChoices reforms limited their powers to disputes involving public servants and unincorporated businesses and the Federal Labor government did not return industrial relations enforcement powers to the States.
 
Under the proposed harmonised OH&S system, the IRC’s workload may reduce further.

The NSW Liberal and Nationals are committed to retaining the State Industrial Relations Commission, but will explore ways to integrate the various tribunals to reduce complexity, duplication and cost.’
 
Greens IR spokesman David Shoebridge, a former IR barrister, said the changes would leave the IRC with a ‘boutique’ industrial role.
 
He said this would leave it ‘vulnerable to abolition’.
 
Pearce and Boland are also in conflict over what Boland claims is a lack of consultation over the OHS changes. 
 
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