Redundancy test case begins

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Redundancy test case begins

The Queensland union movement today formally began its attempt to double severance entitlements for workers in that state, with the QIRC this morning starting hearings into a termination, change and redundancy test case.

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The Queensland union movement today formally began its attempt to double severance entitlements for workers in that state, with the QIRC this morning starting hearings into a termination, change and redundancy test case.

In the case, the Queensland Council of Unions hopes to replicate the NSW standard, set in 1994, in Queensland state awards (see 30/2002). It is seeking changes including:

  • severance pay for all workers, including long-term casuals;
  • doubling severance pay from eight weeks for four years' service to 16 weeks for six years' service;
  • removing discounting arrangements that severance pay has against superannuation entitlements;
  • maintaining employers' ability to argue incapacity to pay.

QCU secretary Grace Grace said the changes were needed because of the 'hundreds' of corporate collapses in Queensland over the past year. She said at the end of the first two weeks of hearings she hoped the commission and employers would 'feel, taste and see what redundancy is for workers who have outdated entitlements'.

The QCU plans to call 18 witnesses before the hearings, some of whom have direct experience of redundancy, others who have been 'at the coalface' of redundancy situations.

In opening submissions today before a full bench headed by Vice President Di Linnane, the QCU said the nature of industrial relations in 2002 was 'fundamentally different' to 15 years ago, when the last redundancy test case had been decided.

Historically, the QCU said, Queensland had been an IR follower, not a leader. 'Major changes to employment conditions were activated in other jurisdictions,' it said, citing decisions on shift loading, holidays for non-standard workers and long service leave entitlements as cases in point. 'They made their way to this jurisdiction. Sometimes they arrived after a tortuous process.'

Now, however, the QCU said, it was impossible to compare federal and state jurisdictions. 'How do you compare a piece of federal legislation underpinned by the concept of allowable award matters, award simplification, and limited intervention powers in enterprise bargaining disputes with state legislation underpinned by fair standards, award review and a bargaining in good faith concept...'

The QCU said it was making the application in the knowledge that it was time to 'step outside the warmth and comfort' of following the federal jurisdiction.

This case differed from other applications - like increased casual loadings, percentage shift loadings or wage adjustments and allowances increases, in that those applications gave an actual improved entitlement, the QCU said.

'The application before this full bench is for entitlements that may never be exercised or accessed. Those entitlements may never be utilised. And surely that is the goal.

'But if they are to be utilised then they must reflect contemporary standards.'

The bench will sit for two weeks this month, two weeks in September and a final week in October.

The ACTU is also preparing a similar claim - the federal standard has not been changed for 18 years (see 187/2002).

  

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