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Government toys with contracts change

CONTRACT determination, or unfair contracts legislation, is being considered for WA’s industrial relations scene.

A spokesman for Consumer and Employment Protection Minister John Kobelke confirmed the Government was looking at a proposal to introduce such legislation.

He stressed it was early days and that any contract determination legislation would not be included in the Government’s rewrite of WA’s industrial relations laws, which is due to enter Parliament in February.

The laws, already introduced in Queensland and New South Wales, bring the dealings between contractors and their principals into the industrial relations system.

They also can bring some certainty to small players such as truck drivers, who are having their rates cut by excessive competition.

The Queensland contract determination legislation allows for rates to be set for groups of contractors if their remuneration is considered to be too low.

New South Wales’ unfair contract laws have been branded a disaster by many in the industrial relations arena because they have been used as an alternate unfair dismissal avenue by senior executives.

The laws allow the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to decide whether a person’s contract was “unfair”. That fairness could be tied to things such as share options schemes or termination payments.

Deacons Lawyers senior associate Alistair Salmon said unfair contract laws would be a disaster for WA business.

“In New South Wales they have become a ‘fat cats’ unfair dismissal avenue with no cap on compensation,” Mr Salmon said.

“If they were introduced here it would allow the WA Industrial Relations Commission to override an express contract agreed by both parties if it deemed it to be unfair.”

UnionsWA acting secretary Stephanie Mayman said her organisation would not favour the NSW contract legislation because it was too restrictive.

Transport Workers Union WA secretary Jim McGiveron said his union would favour an unfair contracts law that would put a safe sustainable pay rate structure in place.

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