22/09/2017 - 14:20

Ritter to head IR review

22/09/2017 - 14:20

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Unions and businesses have welcomed a review of Western Australia’s industrial relations system, the only remaining state-based scheme operating in parallel with federal laws in the country.

Apprentices are among those covered under state-based laws. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Unions and businesses have welcomed a review of Western Australia’s industrial relations system, the only remaining state-based scheme operating in parallel with federal laws in the country.

It is the first comprehensive review of the system since 2002, and will be headed by barrister Mark Ritter, who was acting president of the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission from 2005 to 2009.

Member for Forrestfield, Stephen Price, will assist in the review.

WA is the only state to retain a centralised wage setting system operating alongside the federal system, with the WAIRC setting a state-based minimum wage and awards.

About 11 per cent of the state’s workers fall under this system.

The review will canvass minimum employment conditions, enforcement mechanisms, the scope of awards, and coverage over state government and local government employees.

Another issue will be consideration of an equal remuneration provision in industrial relations law.

Commerce and Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston said the review fulfilled an election commitment.

"The state system needs to be updated to address the changed employment environment and to meet the needs of its constituents - predominantly small business employers and employees, and the public sector,” he said.

"We are committed to ensuring the state industrial relations system is modernised and the review will provide a blueprint on how best to do this."

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA chief executive Deidre Willmott said having two layers of industrial relations laws created confusion for employers.

“It also results in duplication of costs which could be better spent by the state government for other activities,” she said.

“In CCI’s incoming brief to the McGowan government we recommended that the government reform WA’s industrial relations laws by referring our remaining industrial relations laws covering the private sector to the Commonwealth, or alternatively reforming the state system to address the modern needs of small business and organisations."

The idea of referring state-based powers to the Commonwealth was floated by the previous state government ahead of the recent March election.

UnionsWA secretary Meredith Hammat said a lot had changed since the laws were last updated.

“We need to ensure our industrial relations system provides a fair and strong safety net for working West Australians; many are vulnerable working people,” she said.

“Working people rely on having access to a strong industrial relations commission.

“WA has the worst gender pay gap of any jurisdiction in Australia, so the inclusion in the terms of reference of consideration of an equal remuneration provision is welcomed.

“Often in industries where women tend to be employed, wages are lower compared with similar work in other industries.”

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