Nuttall outlines Qld's moves on hours, pay equity

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Nuttall outlines Qld's moves on hours, pay equity

Queensland Government research into the impact of working hours on family lives and communities will feed into the Australian Council of Trade Unions' upcoming reasonable hours test case, according to Queensland IR Minister Gordon Nuttall.

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Queensland Government research into the impact of working hours on family lives and communities will feed into the Australian Council of Trade Unions' upcoming reasonable hours test case, according to Queensland IR Minister Gordon Nuttall.

Opening the National IR Society's annual conference on the Gold Coast last night, Nuttall said the new DIR Work and Family Unit was costing the impact of changing work practices, and that he had also commissioned an independent report into how hours impacted on workplace health and safety.

Both would 'undoubtedly contribute to the community debate on the issue' in the lead-up to the test case in November (see 156/2001), he said. Nuttall outlined a range of policy initiatives the Queensland Government was trialing in recognition that a 'one size fits all' approach was 'not the way forward'.

These included trialing the introduction of industry codes of practice for reasonable working hours, 'hand in hand' with all industry stakeholders, and taking into account the needs of industry, employees, fair community expectations and workplace health and safety issues.

Pay equity

He also said progress had been made on another major issue for the Beattie Government, the forwarding of pay equity. As promised before this year's election (see 2001), Nuttall said Cabinet had this week endorsed recommendations from the recent Pay Equity Inquiry (see 70/2001). These would give the Qld Industrial Relations Commission new powers to investigate pay equity between male and female workers in agreements struck between employers, unions and employees. Pay equity is a featured session at the conference, and WorkplaceInfo will report on the follow-up of inquiries in NSW and Qld, as well as the status of pay equity in WA.

Nuttall said the Government had also given the Commission power to set minimum wages for the 17% of workers not presently covered, like nannies and domestic cleaners. Other pre-election commitments include amending industrial laws to give long-term casuals access to unpaid parental, carers' and bereavement leave after 12 months with one employer.

And last week, the Qld Government released a report into a review of taxi driver remuneration and working conditions. That report recommended amendments to IR laws to give the QIRC power to amend or declare void contracts for bailment where drivers receive less remuneration than an employee would for performing the same work. The President of the QIRC, David Hall, will be addressing the conference this morning.

The pay-off

Nuttall said twice as many employers now chose to register agreements under Qld laws, rather than the federal system. He said the system was popular with both workers and employers, and had proved wrong reports that the laws would contribute to a growing jobless rate, with Qld recording the highest job growth in 10 years.

Working days lost by industrial action had been cut by two-thirds under the Beattie Government, from 118 lost days a month to 46. The 'vast majority' of strikes in Qld occurred in workplaces regulated by federal law, he said, with 85% of lost working days in Qld in April occurring in the federally-covered mining industry. Unfair dismissals applications under the new laws had also fallen 5% in the last financial year, Nuttall said, and were down 22% from their peak in 1995-96.

Nuttall also announced that the regular IR ministerial council meeting - a gathering of IR Ministers from around the states - would convene at the conference venue today to complement the conference.

 

 

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