Vic Bill defeated in Upper House

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Vic Bill defeated in Upper House

The Victorian Government's bill aimed at ensuring 350,000 lower-paid workers were covered by a basic safety net has gone the way of the Bracks Government's previous attempts at IR reform and was voted down last night in the Upper House.

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The Victorian Government's bill aimed at ensuring 350,000 lower-paid workers were covered by a basic safety net has gone the way of the Bracks Government's previous attempts at IR reform and was voted down last night in the Upper House.

The Opposition said the Federal Awards (Uniform System) Bill 2002, which passed through the Lower House last week (see 309/2002), would cost jobs, and prove too rigid for small businesses.

But IR Minister John Lenders accused Liberal Party leader Robert Doyle and his colleagues of ignoring ‘good, sensible policy'.

The workers fell through normal award and agreement coverage after December 1996, when the Kennett Government referred its industrial relations powers to the Federal Government.

This bill would have referred more powers to the Commonwealth, so that it could legislate to have the 20 minimum federal award conditions apply to Schedule 1A workers, those not covered by awards or agreements, who currently only have five.

They receive no personal and carer's leave or bereavement leave, no redundancy entitlements, no entitlement to be paid for any work they do in excess of 38 hours per week, and have lower sick leave benefits.

The Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry said while VECCI supported in principle the establishment of a common framework of IR regulation, it questioned whether current Federal awards provided the best means of achieving that outcome.

VECCI CEO Neil Coulson said in a statement today VECCI regarded the current bill as a more acceptable option than the Fair Employment Bill, voted down last March (see 57/2001).

But he said regardless of these considerations, VECCI felt that in the current context the Government should not ignore the potential cost impact on Victorian business - especially small business - of the proposed changes.

The Victorian Opposition was supported by Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott, saying the State bill could cost 'thousands' of jobs and was unnecessary, because of legislation currently before the Federal Parliament.

The Federal Opposition has vowed to step in and introduce more changes in the next session of Parliament to that Federal legislation, the Workplace Relations Amendment (Improved Protection for Victorian Workers) Bill 2002.

That Bill, reintroduced in March after Parliament was prorogued before last year's election, allows for Schedule 1A workers to access personal and bereavement leave, and be paid for more than 38 hours' work per week.

 

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