04/03/2009 - 22:00

Senate decision fails to quell IR doubts

04/03/2009 - 22:00

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THE Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA remains concerned that the federal government's proposed industrial relations reforms will have a negative effect on business, despite a Senate inquiry dismissing recommendations for significant changes.

THE Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA remains concerned that the federal government's proposed industrial relations reforms will have a negative effect on business, despite a Senate inquiry dismissing recommendations for significant changes.

CCIWA director of workplace relations Marcia Kuhne said the 200-page Senate report was dismissive of industry concerns and recommended that the Fair Work Bill be passed without delay.

"In its evidence to the Senate inquiry, CCI highlighted how aspects of the proposed changes will hand unions greater control of Australian workplaces, interfere with day-to-day operations, and undermine productivity," she said.

"Also of concern is that the government is seeking to introduce a number of changes harmful to business that were not part of its original policy documents.

"However, an initial assessment of the report has revealed the business community's concerns about the proposed bill have not been dealt with.

"CCI remains concerned that the changes could cause long-term financial harm to WA firms at a time when they can least afford it."

The Senate committee last week tabled a majority report from its three-month inquiry into the bill, which will be voted on later this year.

While the government members of the committee recommended that minor changes be made and that the proposed laws be passed without delay, the federal opposition and the Greens want significant changes to the legislation.

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert believes the reforms retain too much of the WorkChoices regime in the new system, saying individual agreements will continue to have the potential to exploit workers.

"The unfair dismissal laws don't go far enough and the limited powers afforded to Fair Work Australia are causes for concern," Senator Siewert said in a statement.

Federal Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard welcomed the conclusion of the inquiry, which received 154 submissions, and called on senators to "accept the will of the Australian people".

Ms Gillard said the government would consider the technical amendments recommended by the Senate committee on their merits.

"The Rudd government's priority has been to ensure the bill is drafted to best possible standard and is fair, effective and balanced," Ms Gillard said.

"The Fair Work Bill delivers on the government's promise to abolish WorkChoices and create a new balanced and simpler system to allow the nation to move forward with fairness."

In minor changes to the bill, there is no probationary period required after a transfer of business, community legal centres are exempt from seeking leave to appear before Fair Work Australia, and the deadline for lodging unfair dismissal appeals has been extended from seven to 14 days.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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