25/11/2008 - 10:13

Mixed reactions to new IR laws

25/11/2008 - 10:13

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Several lobby groups from across the country have expressed concern over the Rudd government's introduction of its new industrial relations bill, which has been backed by the federal opposition.

Several lobby groups from across the country have expressed concern over the Rudd government's introduction of its new industrial relations bill, which has been backed by the federal opposition.

The 'Fair Work Bill' sets new national employment standards, unfair dismissal laws, good faith bargaining rules and puts an emphasis on collective bargaining.

It will also establish Fair Work Australia as the new industrial tribunal to replace the Australian Industrial Relations Commission and dismantle bodies created under Work Choices such as the Workplace Authority, the Workplace Ombudsman and the Fair Pay Commission.

The laws replace the unpopular Work Choices regime, implemented by the former Howard government.

In parliament today, federal Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull said the coalition will vote for the 600-page bill.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA said that the introduction of the new IR laws signals the start of a new era where unions will be handed greater control of Australian workplaces.

"The State's peak business organisation, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia, is concerned the proposed changes will disadvantage many small, medium and large businesses across Western Australia to the benefit of unions," CCIWA workplace relations policy director Marcia Kuhne said.

"CCI welcomes moves by the Federal Government to make it easier for employers to read and understand the legislation.

"However, an initial assessment of the bill reveals that employers will be forced into collective bargaining whether they want to or not, unions will be handed greater influence over agreement making and workplace issues, and the likelihood of disruptive and costly industrial action will increase with the range of workplace issues open to negotiation extended."

Currently, unions represent 16 per cent of the WA workforce.

Meanwhile the Australian Metals and Mining Association warned a return to the Keating era where unions ruled the roost.

The association said the introduction of the Fair Work Bill is more about propping up an ailing union movement rather than improving business conditions and job prospects for Australians.

"Today's introduction of the Federal Government's Fair Work Bill will give the Australian Union movement the greatest increase in power since Federation," AMMA chief executive Steve Knott said.

"These new union rights will shift the focus from productivity and job creation, to fending off disruptive union membership turf wars and dealing with the red tape associated with union requests for information under the deceptive 'good faith bargaining' system."

The AMMA claims the new laws will give unions the "keys to the door" of all Australian workplaces, including the 90 per cent of businesses which currently have no dealings with unions.

"The only beneficiaries will be union bosses and the union movement generally."

The views were echoed by the national Masters Builder Association.

"We are concerned that with a 19 per cent unionisation rate in the building and construction industry, the tail will once again wag the dog on building sites," MBA chief executive Wilhelm Harnisch said.


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