The Australian Government rejects union push on workplace laws-The Australian

The Australian Government rejects union push on workplace laws

Ewin Hannan, Industrial editor

• From: The Australian • March 09, 2011 12:00AM

• THE Gillard Government has flatly rejected a union push to change the workplace laws to try to ensure the pay and conditions of contractors, casual and labour-hire workers is no less than that received by directly employed permanent employees doing the same job. A meeting of the ACTU executive in Melbourne today will discuss how to progress the union movement’s so- called “precarious employment” strategy, with union leaders to debate changes they intend to seek to the Fair Work Act.

Tony Sheldon, the federal secretary of the Transport Workers Union, is pushing to lift the pay and entitlements of contractors, casuals and labour-hire employees by changing how they are defined under the Fair Work Act. But federal Workplace Relations Minister, Chris Evans, yesterday ruled out changes to the legislation.

“The Fair Work Act is one of the most significant industrial relations and economic reforms in the nation’s history,” his spokesman said. “The Government’s priority is to ensure that the Fair Work Act is implemented and is operating as intended rather than making further legislative change. Senator Evans’ spokesman said the Act had “considerably improved protections against job insecurity, not least by restoring unfair dismissal protections to 4.3 million Australians.”

“Modern awards can and do provide secure employment clauses for casual workers. Similarly job security can, and is the subject of bargaining, including by providing that contractors be engaged on terms and conditions that do not undercut those of employees,” he said. Mr Sheldon said yesterday that his union would keep campaigning for changes on behalf of workers.

Heather Ridout, chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, said the union push was damaging for employers and workers. “To remain competitive companies need to maintain a flexible workforce which will often include the use of casuals, on-hire employees and independent contractors, as well as full-time and part-time employees,” Ms Ridout said.

Rather than agree to the union bid, she said the Government should change the Act to prevent enterprise agreement clauses which restrict the engagement of on-hire employees and independent contractors. Mr Sheldon said he was “not surprised to hear a representative of big business saying people should have less rights”.  

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