Victoria 2000: the year in review

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Victoria 2000: the year in review

Two major themes have dominated the Victorian industrial landscape this year – the investigation into the State’s industrial relations system and subsequent introduction of new legislation, and Campaign 2000.

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Two major themes have dominated the Victorian industrial landscape this year – the investigation into the State’s industrial relations system and subsequent introduction of new legislation, and Campaign 2000.

Industrial changes and the Fair Employment Bill
 
Some 365,000 Victorian workers identified as being the worst off in the state will find no relief in sight over Christmas, as a new Bill introduced by the Government languishes while the Upper House Opposition members consult further with their constituents.

Under the chairmanship of Professor Ron McCallum, the Victorian IR Taskforce travelled the state, taking submissions and speaking to people affected by the Kennett Government’s handover of the State’s industrial powers to the Commonwealth.

The Taskforce found that 21% of the state’s workers – 80% of those employed in small business – had fallen through the cracks. These 365,000 workers were not covered by federal awards, certified agreements or Australian Workplace Agreements. Instead, under Schedule 1A of the federal Workplace Relations Act, they were protected by only five minimum conditions, there was nowhere for employers or workers to turn to for advice, enforcement was not happening, and rural workers were particularly hard up.

The Taskforce recommended: setting up a Fair Employment Tribunal to set remuneration, wages and conditions for workers not covered by federal industrial agreements; defining outworkers as employees and further refining the definition of employee to include contractors.

However the Australian Industry Group and Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce did not sign off on the final recommendations for legislative change, and lobbied hard to ensure Upper House conservative parliamentarians, who hold the balance of power, did not pass the Bill before Christmas.

A spokesperson for IR Minister Monica Gould said a number of changes had already been made, including:

  • limiting the liability of a principal contractor to pay for remuneration of employees of subcontractors to outworkers only;
  • restricting a review of unfair contracts to owner drivers, child-care workers, cleaners and security guards; and
  • having right of entry provisions mirroring the federal Act.

Groups like the Master Builders Association of Victoria and Housing Industry Association now support the Bill, following the amendments, and the spokesperson said the Government would continue talking with the Opposition over the break in an attempt to convince them the changes ‘weren’t so scary’.

She said an economic impact study conducted for the Government by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research showed there would be an immediate boost to the economy, and that the worst case scenario would see 1500 job losses over 10 years. ‘In order to bring those people [the most disadvantaged] up, we think it’s got to be done,’ she said.

For further information, see previous stories: 

  • Gould boosts Job Watch to educate workers; 
  • Vic Act a lesson in not counting chickens: McCallum; 
  • Upper house 'should think carefully' about Victorian changes; 
  • Dissenting report into new Vic IR laws; 
  • Reith's call to arms over Vic change process; 
  • Victorian workers are lower paid: ACIRRT; 
  • Vic IR Taskforce recommendations take shape; and 
  • Workers' needs, economy must balance: Vic taskforce.
Campaign 2000

By Christmas, between 500 and 600 companies will have signed deals promising common wage outcomes and conditions for metalworkers, according to the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union.

But employers reject those claims, with the Australian Industry Group saying the unions had failed in their objective. The AiG’s national IR general manager, Stephen Smith, told WorkplaceInfo that the campaign had netted ‘very different outcomes – different expiry dates, different wages and different conditions’.

Furthermore, he said, one in four of the deals this year had been struck directly between the employers and workers. Smith said given the outcomes, and the damage done in Victoria this year, unions should abandon their plans to take the campaign national in 2001.

But AMWU Victorian metals division secretary Darren Nelson told WorkplaceInfo the Campaign had been ‘very much’ a success, with the major players signed and others expected to follow. He estimated 20,000 workers, or two-thirds of the union’s membership, were now signed to deals guaranteeing a 15% wage rise over 33 months, with common expiry dates, and other common conditions. Although a ‘handful’ of deals were bringing in more, and a ‘handful’ delivering less, overall most had more or less similar outcomes, he said.

Nelson predicted that in the next round (with deals set to expire between March 31 and June 30, 2003) employers would sign agreements straight away.

The union has faced continual lambasting from federal Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith, who believes pattern bargaining is the antithesis of enterprise bargaining as envisaged under the Workplace Relations Act.

And in October, the union suffered a setback in its campaign for common outcomes, with the federal industrial relations commission terminating bargaining periods with 33 employers, saying the union had not genuinely bargained at an enterprise level.

Justice Paul Munro ordered the cooling off period until the end of November. As a result of the decision, the union could not take protected industrial action between now and then, although negotiations could continue. Agreements have now been reached with most of those companies.

The AMWU has begun to roll out plans for Campaign 2001 in each state from September this year. That Campaign involves 30,000 members and around 2,000 agreements nationally. The union is seeking:

  • pay claims of 6% a year for two years;
  • common terms, with the agreements stretching from June 2001 to March 2003;
  • joint employer/union initiatives on industry development, training and investment;
  • regulation of casual and contract workers; and
  • the adoption of Manusafe, the union’s portable employee entitlements scheme which has been set up to cover long service leave, sick and annual leave etcetera.

For further information, see: 

  • AIRC decision forces Campaign 2000 cool-off; 
  • Campaign 2001 roadshow begins; 
  • Reith's call to arms over Vic change process; 
  • Democrats push to amend anti-pattern bargaining bill; and
  • Sparks fly as unions, Reith, face off over casuals.
Public sector

All public sector employees covered by non-union agreements or individual contracts following the Kennett Government’s handover of power to the Commonwealth have returned to being covered under one enterprise agreement.

The deal covers some 20,000 non-executive employees in eight major departments and 15 smaller ones. It includes workers on Australian Workplace Agreements and those covered by a

s170MXagreement made by the federal Industrial Relations Commission in March, which covers those who refused to sign AWAs and those who were on non-union agreements.

 

A review, to be conducted over the next few months, will take into account:

  • Classifications.Former Premier Jeff Kennett collapsed all previous bands into five generic categories, and Keogh said there were ‘lots of issues in terms of progression within those bands’ that needed to be worked out.
  • Performance pay.
  • Benchmarking. The Victorian public sector had traditionally been benchmarked at 25% of the labour market (that is, 75% of employers would pay higher wages).

For further information, see: 

Vic public service prepares to lose AWAs.

Other States
  • Queensland 2000: the year in review
  • New South Wales 2000: the year in review
  • Tasmania 2000: the year in review
  • South Australia 2000: the year in review
  • Western Australia 2000: the year in review
 

 

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