'State WorkChoices exemptions must go', say employers

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'State WorkChoices exemptions must go', say employers

All NSW public servant exemptions to WorkChoices should be abolished and the salaries of NSW Government Ministers linked to performance, according to a leading employer organisation.

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All NSW public servant exemptions to WorkChoices should be abolished and the salaries of NSW Government Ministers linked to performance, according to a leading employer organisation.

In NSW Business Priorities 2007, a major economic blueprint released today, NSW Business Chamber said the recent decision of the NSW Government to exempt all of its workforce from WorkChoices will inhibit public sector productivity improvements in coming years.

Opposition Leader Peter Debnam has also promised to exempt public servants from WorkChoices, while at the same time sacking 20,000 of them.

'Reform of labour practices within the public sector will be entirely based on the willingness of UnionsNSW to co-operate with the government,' said NSW Business Chamber CEO Kevin MacDonald.

Resisted improvements

'The union dominated public sector has historically resisted attempts by government to improve work practices.

'The legislation exempting the public sector from the benefits of WorkChoices will cost taxpayers through lost productivity and will over time be the most expensive promise undertaken by the current administration. The legislation has to be repealed.'

MacDonald said NSW Treasurer Michael Costa has correctly argued that in the coming decades, the NSW Public Sector needs to produce productivity improvements over and above the improvements generated by the private sector.

'This will be extremely difficult to achieve and that is why we support removing the exemption of the NSW public sector from WorkChoices,' he said.

One hand tied behind back

'We should be encouraging and rewarding improvements to public sector productivity and not tying one hand behind the State Government's back.'

In its blueprint, NSW Business Priorities 2007, the Chamber said there were currently 47,000 job vacancies in NSW.

'Each vacancy is a lost opportunity for NSW,' MacDonald said. 'Demographic changes are going to worsen these shortages in coming years, and this will have a particular impact on regional areas and the public sector.'

He said inadequate training to produce a skilled workforce was hampering the growth of the State.

Fast-track training

'NSW is yet to fully appreciate the importance of having a greater alignment of our education and training systems with the wider business community,' MacDonald said. 'For example, the primary reason NSW has low apprenticeship completion rates is that we do not make it easy for apprentices to fast-track their training and learning.'

MacDonald pointed to significant skill shortages in the public sector and in regional NSW and the falling apprenticeship completion rate, which is currently 45%.

The Chamber also called for the scrapping of new procurement rules setting new employment standards for tenderers.

'The NSW Government is phasing in changes to Government procurement contracts requiring tenderers to meet certain workplace relations standards set within the NSW system,' MacDonald said. 'These changes will add costs to all tenderers and result in more costly tenders.'

Injury rates

NSW Business Chamber also restated its demands for changes to the OHS system in NSW. It wants the next State Government to cut workers compensation premiums further.

MacDonald said the NSW Government had reduced the cost of Workers Compensation premiums by 20%, or $560m per year, but further cuts should be made as the performance of the scheme continues to improve.

The Chamber said NSW has the most stringent regime for OHS regime in Australia, yet it has injury rates worse than the Australian average.

'A more co-operative approach between government, employers and employees will result in improved safety outcomes,' MacDonald said.

The Chamber wants a more practical approach to the duty of care, personal responsibility for safety, and removing conflict between WorkCover's role as a prosecutor and educator/advice provider.

MacDonald called for WorkCover to provide safety advice to employers and for that advice to have legal standing — thereby encouraging WorkCover to play a more active and positive role in accident prevention.

Further information

For further information go to the NSW Business Chamber website.

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