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Labor shows its IR hand

UNIONS will be back directing WA’s industrial relations policy if Labor is elected.

WA Labor leader Geoff Gallop said individual contracts would remain under a Labor Government but would be underpinned by Federal Awards.

The Award system is a legacy of trade unions.

Dr Gallop said Labor still preferred collective bargaining to individual bargaining.

WA’s Workplace Agree-ments Act effectively did away with the Award system and instituted a minimum standard of employment requirement.

More than 250,000 Western Australians have signed workplace agreements.

Dr Gallop wants to abolish the WA Workplace Agreements Act and replace individual contracts with Employer Employee Agreements.

The EEAs will:

* Have a no disadvantage test requiring remuneration to be at least equal to that of the relevant award;

* Be registered with the WA Industrial Relations Commission;

* Be open to public scrutiny;

* Offer a “genuine choice” safety provision so no employee can be forced into an EEA if they prefer award conditions;

* Not undermine an existing collective enterprise agreement;

* Include a fair dispute resolution procedure that includes access to the WA Industrial Relations Comm-ission; and

* Have a maximum term of three years.

The EEAs will create a greater role for the WAIRC.

Dr Gallop said a Labor Government would also give unions a “fair and reasonable role” in the industrial relations system.

Dr Gallop said Labor’s changes would make WA’s lowest paid workers up to $50 a week better off.

He said workers being paid better than award conditions would not be disadvantaged.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry director operations Brendan McCarthy said the policies proposed in Labor’s IR direction statement would take WA backwards.

“They will derail labour market changes that have contributed hugely to WA’s high economic and employment growth of recent years,” he said.

“Scrapping the Workplace Agreements Act would destabilise the employment arrangements and job security of nearly a quarter of a million Western Australians covered by workplace agreements.”

Mr McCarthy said the $50 a week wage hike Labor promised could price many employees out of existing and new jobs.

“In any case, the Opposition’s $50 promise to low-paid workers does not stack up and shows up this direction statement as largely pre-election rhetoric,” he said.

WA Labour Relations Minister Cheryl Edwardes branded the ALP IR policy a con and said it would do little more than hand control back to Labor’s trade union mates.

“The ALP policy rides rough-shod over workers and businesses who have given greater productivity, agreed to more flexible workplace agreements and worked together to make the WA economy a competitor in the international marketplace,” she said.

Combined Small Business Association’s of WA president Oliver Moon said the policy would let unions revert to “thuggery to force small businesses to sign onto coll-ective bargaining agreements”.

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