Tasmania joins SA in referring private sector IR powers


Tasmania joins SA in referring private sector IR powers

Tasmania has agreed to refer its IR powers over the private sector to the Federal Government, increasing the pressure on NSW, Queensland and WA to also join the national workplace relations system.


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Tasmania has agreed to refer its IR powers over the private sector to the Federal Government, increasing the pressure on NSW, Queensland and WA to also join the national workplace relations system.
The Tas referral decision comes one day after South Australia also agreed to hand over its private sector IR powers.
Since Victoria referred its powers in the 1990s, Australia will soon have half its States in the federal system and half out.
WA is unlikely to join in the short term, as it is conducting a review of its State IR system and its relationship with the federal system.
Key agenda item
Queensland Industrial Relations Minister, Cameron Dick, said a national industrial relations system would be a key agenda item at tomorrow's meeting of the Workplace Relations Ministerial Council.
‘The Commonwealth Government is pursuing a clear national agenda, and each jurisdiction must consider what model will deliver the fairest and most efficient system for both workers and businesses in their jurisdiction,’ he said.
‘Queensland is committed to working co-operatively with the federal government, within the context of the Fair Work legislation passed by the federal parliament, to ensure that we achieve the best outcome possible for Queensland workers and the Queensland community as a whole.’
A spokesman for NSW Industrial Relations Minister, John Hatzistergos, said the state government would not finalise its position until all of the Fair Work legislation had been passed by the Senate.
This is a curious position for NSW since the Fair Work Act has already been passed, and only the transitional legislation is still to go before the Senate for a vote.
Pressure from business
The three ‘hold-out’ States are certain to come under pressure from business, which wants a single national IR system to operate in, instead of the clashing structures of state and federal administrations.
The Tas Minister for Workplace Relations, Lisa Singh, said State Cabinet had given, in principle, approval for Tasmania to refer the balance of private sector industrial relations to the Australian Government.
‘The Howard Government, under WorkChoices, took all constitutional corporations into the Federal industrial relations system, however sole traders and partnerships continued to be covered by State- and Territory-based jurisdictions, causing confusion for workers and employers,’ she said. ‘These changes remedy that.
Clarification re local government
‘They also clarify arrangements with local government. This will make clear they can remain where they want to be under the Federal system.
‘This is a demonstration of the Tasmanian Government’s confidence in the new Fair Work Act and our commitment to improving the ease with which business can be done across borders, while protecting the interests of workers.’
Singh said she will finalise details with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Employment Relations, Julia Gillard, at the Council meeting tomorrow.
‘In recent weeks I have been pleased to meet with employers, unions, and other organisations to discuss this proposal and feedback has been positive — a simpler industrial relations system is good for workers and employers,’ she said.
‘For workers, access to modern awards means simpler, nationally-consistent wages, loadings, and penalty payments that will be revised on a regular basis.
Protection for workers
‘There will be better and clearer protection for workers who participate in workplace negotiations, who access their rights under Awards and Enterprise Agreements, or who become members or delegates of the relevant union.
‘The collective bargaining arrangements in the national system will be of particular benefit to low paid workers.
‘It means that even workers and employers who have not historically been covered by an Enterprise Agreement will have access to the help of Fair Work Australia to negotiate and, where necessary, determine matters of pay and conditions that may be in dispute.
‘For employers, participation in the national system will also slash red tape as well as simplifying and streamlining compliance measures.’
Singh said the referral only applies to the private sector and the public service will not be impacted by this decision, as they will continue to work under the State industrial system.
She said appropriate transitional arrangements are built in for those employers and workers moving to the national system, including long lead times for the introduction of modern awards.
Unions welcome move
Unions Tasmania secretary, Simon Cocker, welcomed the decision, saying that as the referral will be ‘text based’, it guarantees Tasmanians will continue to have a say about industrial laws for our state.’
‘We think this is a practical and workable approach which, from 1 January 2010, will clear up once and for all the confusion about which businesses are in the state industrial relations system and which are in the federal system,’ he said.
‘The Minister for Workplace Relations, Lisa Singh, has clearly listened to views of unions in Tasmania, and taken a position that ensures that we have a new fair work law system that also takes into account the local needs of our state.’
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