WESTERN Australia has the worst record in the nation for industrial disputes, accounting for almost half the disputes in Australia, according to the State Opposition.
Liberal Labour Relations spokeswoman Cheryl Edwardes said the industrial dispute figures, coupled with the recent power cuts were not only affecting families, but were crippling WA industry.
Statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics last week showed that, in the 12 months to November 2003, WA lost an average of 97 days per 1,000 employees to industrial action.
A total of 16,200 working days were lost to industrial disputes in WA in November, accounting for 44 per cent of the total number of days lost nationally.
Mrs Edwardes said that, since the Gallop Government was elected, police, teachers, allied health workers, public sector workers, power workers, train guards, education support workers, country school bus drivers, doctors and train drivers had either taken or were threatening to strike.
“It [the WA Government] has failed to ensure a reliable power supply so businesses can operate and workers can get paid, and it has failed to provide a stable industrial relations climate,” she said.
Consumer and Employment Protection Minister John Kobelke acknowledged WA’s record, saying he was concerned the current industrial relations system was being abused.
He called on unions and employers to improve their communication.
“We have now got an unemployment rate of 5.4 per cent and that is better than the national average – but we also need an industrial disputes record that is better than other States, or we could lose opportunities,” Mr Kobelke said.
“We will continue to encourage a more settled industrial climate by changing the culture of workplaces, encouraging more productive negotiations and through greater use of the WA Industrial Relations Commission as the independent umpire.”
But despite the fact that WA’s latest figures were “not good enough”, Mr Kolbelke said there was a drop of more than 30 per cent in days lost between October and November of last year.
He also said the current system was an improvement on the Court Government’s industrial relations record.
“There is now a system that offers more respect to employees,” Mr Kobelke said.
Under the previous government the average number of days lost per month was 4,425 – under the Gallop Government, this average was 3,942 per month, Mr Kobelke said.
He said a significant proportion of industrial disputes in the six months to November were within the Federal jurisdiction.
Unions WA secretary Stephanie Mayman denied knowledge of any abuse of the current industrial relations system and said she was surprised by the Government’s reaction.
She said that, while some of the disputes were related to the Federal Government, many of the problems were the State Government‘s own doing.
The Master Builders Association of WA supported the line that the system was being abused, saying many building contractors were being put out of business because of the extravagant, non-negotiable conditions being claimed by some unions.
MBA director Michael McLean said the findings of the recent Federal Cole Royal Commission into the building industry were having minimal impact on the behaviour of some building union officials.
He called upon the Federal Government to press ahead with a specialist tribunal to enforce law and order in the building industry.
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