Labor IR policy threatens

WA’S business community – and their workers – feel under threat from the Labor Party’s industrial relations policy.

Political opponents and business leaders have labelled Labor’s policy as being crazy, stupid and one that simply turns the clock back to an era where workers were worse off and productivity was low.

Labor’s industrial relation policy states that “the unwanted, unworkable and unfair ‘third wave’ legislation and the Workplace Agreements Act will be repealed as a priority of a Gallop Labor Government in its first parliamentary session.”

The issue is of such concern to the Chamber of Commerce that chief executive Lyndon Rowe, who was backing Labor’s aims to reduce and streamline government, has now denounced Labor as being a threat to WA business.

In the latest CCI newsletter, Mr Rowe said; “One issue stands out upon which the Labor opposition disqualifies itself from the support of business. That issue is industrial relations.”

“If Labor is elected, the ramifications of repealing the workplace agreements would be huge for employment and the State economy.”

WA business heavyweight, Austal chairman John Rothwell, speaking to a group of journalists last week said Labor’s industrial relations policy “worries the hell out of us.”

Mr Rothwell attributes much of Austal Ships success to the Workplace Agreements Legislation.

Labor will re-establish the role of the WA Industrial Relations Commission, commit all public servants to collective bargaining and give preference for employment contracts under the award system or collective agreements.

In place of WPAs, Labor plans to establish individual Employee-Employer Agreements (EEAs) which will be tied to the award rather than to any productivity gains.

According to Workplace Agreements Pty Ltd director Tony Thompson, the ramifications would be detrimental to employers and employees who are now on better conditions than the award offers.

Mr Thompson believes it would be a far slower process – more red tape and more expensive.

“It just makes life far more complicated,” he said.

“It would remove the employer to some extent from the process.”

The mining industry arguably has the most to lose if the Workplace Agreements Act is repealed.

According to WA Premier Richard Court, speaking at a Committee for Economic Development luncheon last week, anyone that went up to a town like Tom Price and suggested Work Place Agreements should be removed would be “lynched”.

A survey carried out by Independent MLC Mark Nevill of workers in the Pilbara found strong support for WPAs among miners in the historically strong Labor heartland.

About 63 per cent of the 291 respondents of WPAs support them, while up to 92 per cent of workers in mining companies believed that WPAs were good for them.

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