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IR law change delays a frustration for business

INDUSTRIAL Relations Minister John Kobelke has reneged on a promise to release details of Labor’s proposed rewriting of WA’s industrial relations legislation.

And when the draft Bill is available, the public will only have between seven and 10 days to comment.

Labor made changing IR law a priority when it came into Government in February. In March it announced any Workplace Agreement struck after March 21 would only run for six months after new legislation came in.

But back then it thought its new IR laws would be in place by June.

In June Mr Kobelke told Business News he would release a draft of Labor’s IR legislation to “key stakeholder” groups, such as unions and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, within one month.

A spokesman for Mr Kobelke told Business News the process of drafting the Bill was running behind schedule.

“The draft should be out for key stakeholder comment by September or October,” the spokesman said.

“Mr Kobelke has said there will only be a 10-day consultation period. The legislation will be in the public eye as it goes through Parliament.

“We are still hoping to have new IR legislation in place by the end of the year.”

Besides repealing the Workplace Agreements Act, the new legislation is believed to be considering all aspects of IR including unfair dismissal.

Labor’s IR law also should include a form of individual contracts to be known as Employee Employer Agreements.

Union groups that wanted a return to a collective bargaining regime have resigned themselves to disappointment.

But employers are concerned about what form the EEAs and Labor’s IR law will take. They fear the EEAs will be too bureaucratic to be of any use and are annoyed with the amount of uncertainty the delays in drafting the new legislation are causing.

Small Business Alliance chairwoman Cheryl Thompson, whose organisation represents 25 small business organisations, said the uncertainty was creating “chaos” from a business planning point of view.

“It’s hard to work in an environment where you know change is coming but you don’t know what it will be,” she said.

“I don’t believe the 10-day consultation period is appropriate at all.”

Chamber of Commerce and Industry director of operations Brendan McCarthy said the legislative delay had created a lot of uncertainty for business.

“A lot of plans have been put in limbo. Businesses are probably missing out on a lot of opportunities and efficiencies,” Mr McCarthy said.

“For the 2 per cent to 3 per cent Labor thinks are being exploited, they are holding up 95 per cent.”

Mr McCarthy said the Government thought changing IR laws would be a simple thing to do.

“Once they started looking at the legislation they realised there were a lot of complexities there,” he said.

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