Workers' needs, economy must balance: Vic taskforce

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Workers' needs, economy must balance: Vic taskforce

Balancing economic growth with the needs of the most vulnerable workers is a top priority for Victoria’s new IR Taskforce, which today (25 May) released its issues paper into the review of the Victorian industrial relations system.

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Balancing economic growth with the needs of the most vulnerable workers is a top priority for Victoria’s new IR Taskforce, which today (25 May) released its issues paper into the review of the Victorian industrial relations system.

The Taskforce has acted fast, releasing the paper only six weeks after it was set up. Headed by industrial law Professor Ron McCallum, who also oversaw changes to the new IR systems in NSW and Qld, it is to inquire into the social, economic and legal effects of changes to industrial law in Victoria since 1992, and make any recommendations for change. The Taskforce will undergo public consultations in regional areas, submissions are due on 4 July and a final report is expected by 31 July.

The issues paper lays the Bracks Labor Government’s views on the table. It canvasses legal issues arising from former Premier Jeff Kennett having abolished the State award system and then handing power for various industrial matters over to the Federal Govt.

Victoria still appears to have power over independent contractors, the paper says, which could cover outworkers, those working for labour hire firms and owner-drivers. It discusses deeming these workers to be employees, with the same rights and protections as other workers.

The issues paper also raises concerns that those workers excluded from bringing unfair or unlawful termination proceedings before the AIRC or Federal Court – including short-term casuals and contractors – were frequently in groups with a perceived high disadvantage, like women, migrants and youth.

Balance

Focus is also directed to changes in the workforce like high levels of casualisation, and the decline of full-time work in high wage occupations. It asks those making submissions to investigate community standards, access and entitlements for different types of workers. The paper stresses the need to balance labour market trends with economic and social wishes of employers, workers and the community.

It said the wages gap was particularly evident in Victoria, with some 50 per cent of workers on federal awards and agreements, while 30% (those under common law contracts or covered under the old employment arrangements) with a safety net of only five conditions and another 20% falling through the gaps.

Other issues discussed include:

  • The power of industrial tribunals (the paper canvasses the Victorian Parliament legislating to give AIRC power to make common rule awards)
    • The most effective means of compliance and enforcement.

The Government’s industrial policy is also reproduced as an attachment to the document and outlines plans to:

  • Investigate re-establishing a State industrial tribunal
  • End individual contracts and support collective bargaining
  • Tackle casualisation
  • Protect vulnerable workers
  • Guarantee security of payments in the building and construction industry
  • Establish a review into job security to address rising levels of casualisation
  • Address OHS issues by appointing more inspectors, introducing a new crime of industrial manslaughter and ensuring a fair workers’ comp system

HR Link will investigate the paper at length next week. In the meantime, to download the issues paper, visit the Taskforce’s website at www.vic.gov.au/irtaskforce/

 
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