14/01/2009 - 22:00

Business, unions want IR changes

14/01/2009 - 22:00


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THE federal government's workplace relations reforms are causing concern for businesses already facing a bleak economic outlook for the year ahead.

THE federal government's workplace relations reforms are causing concern for businesses already facing a bleak economic outlook for the year ahead.

Lobby groups and the state government are worried about the introduction of the Rudd government's industrial relations bill, which emphasises collective bargaining, includes greater union right-of-entry provisions, and sets new good faith bargaining rules and national employment standards.

Labor's Fair Work Bill will replace the unpopular Work Choices regime.

In March 2008, the government introduced transitional measures to phase out key provisions in the existing workplace relations laws, including the Workplace Relations Act 1996, A Stronger Safety Net (the Workplace Relations Amendment Act 2007), the Workplace Authority, the Workplace Ombudsman and the Fair Pay Commission.

Notable among these reforms is the phasing out of Australian Workplace Agreements.

Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard said the new workplace relations system, which commences full operation in January 2010, would maintain a strong safety net for employees while providing greater flexibility and choice for employers and employees.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA is among several employer groups concerned that the Fair Work Bill will derail major infrastructure projects.

CCIWA chief executive James Pearson does not want the compulsory inclusion of all relevant unions to an enterprise agreement for greenfields projects to go ahead.

The Master Builders Association is also worried by the greenfields clause, which it believes could put millions of dollars of public and private money at risk.

In its submission to a Senate inquiry into the workplace reforms, the state government has called for 11 amendments to the Fair Work Bill, including changes to enterprise bargaining and the right-of-entry provisions for unions.

Premier Colin Barnett wants to prevent union officials from inspecting the pay and working records of non-union employees. He also called for the bill to be amended so the new body, Fair Work Australia, cannot arbitrate a workplace determination where bargaining has failed or there has been a breach of the bargaining orders.

The Australian Mines and Metals Association has urged changes to the expansion of union right-of-entry.

The AMMA has also expressed disquiet about the whereby all relevant unions must be party to enterprise deals as default bargainers.

Collectively, Australia's mining industry has called for the right to use strike breakers in disputes.

Conversely, the UnionsWA submission to the inquiry said that some elements of the Fair Work Bill don't go far enough in restoring the balance for employees.

Areas which UnionsWA said need further work include the ability for AWAs to continue past their expiry date, exclusions of small business and trainees from unfair dismissal laws, and the seven-day limit for lodging unfair dismissal claims.


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