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Individual contracts debated

THE importance of individual contracts in the economy should be recognised and enhanced says Australian Mines and Metals Association executive general manager Steve Knott.

“In the year 2000, it is both sad and wondrous to listen to the sterile debate over whether or not there should be Australian workplace awards and/or individual contracts,” he said.

“The resources sector, like many sectors in Australia, is confronted with the inescapable reality for an internationally competitive marketplace.

“The reality, whether we like it or not, has forced changes to the previous paternalistic and protectionist system of collective bargaining,” he said.

In some sectors of the mining industry, the overwhelming majority of employers have direct employment arrangements in place with their employees, he said.

An AMMA survey released recently revealed twenty-nine WA-based mining companies employing a total of 7,213 employees had around 87 per cent of their workforces employed under individual arrangements.

Managers, supervisors, professional and administrative employees were excluded from the survey.

Mr Knott said that evidence reflected productivity and remuneration of employees had increased.

“Occupational health and safety is steadily improving and trade union membership has declined to between 1 per cent and 2 per cent of the workforce in some companies,” Mr Knott said.

“Notwithstanding the significant gains made by employers and employees who have made the dream of individual contracts a reality, there are many vested interest groups who are advocating another pendulum swing of industrial relations legislative changes.

“AMMA opposes such an approach and calls on all political parties to focus on the issue of systems of work that drive necessary work practice changes and improve working conditions for employees,” he said.

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