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What Labor offers under Work Choices Lite -- pick the difference!


Forward With Fairness - Policy Implementation Plan

Media Statement - 28th August 2007

A Rudd Labor Government will replace Mr Howard’s Work Choices laws, and his unfair AWAs, with a fairer and more flexible system.

Federal Labor will foster a strong productive national economy, but an economy which also protects Australian working families. Federal Labor’s industrial relations plan for Australia’s future will balance two core principles:

1. Providing flexibility for business, to keep our economy strong and productive.
2. Ensuring fair laws exist which protect Australian working families.

A Rudd Labor Government will get this balance right.

There is a clear case for workplace reform in Australia. A modern and flexible economy demands it. But Mr Howard’s Work Choices laws have gone too far. They have cut basic rights like overtime, penalty rates, leave loadings - not to mention job security.

Federal Labor’s Policy Implementation Plan will ensure that businesses and employees will have certainty and stability in the transition from Mr Howard’s unfair Work Choices laws to Labor’s fair and flexible industrial relations system.

We will replace Work Choices and provide a sensible transition to an industrial relations system that gets the balance right between fairness and flexibility. There are 10 key elements to Federal Labor’s Policy Implementation Plan:

  • Certainty in the transition from AWAs
  • Individual flexibility for employees earning more than $100,000
  • Award flexibility
  • Collective agreement flexibility
  • Award modernisation and simplification
  • Special consideration for small business
  • Tough rules about industrial action
  • Right of entry rules remain
  • A stronger cop on the beat in the building and construction industry
  • A new fair and unbiased industrial umpire

Consultation Process
In designing sensible transitional arrangements, Federal Labor has been listening to businesses and working families across Australia.

We have heard from a range of small, medium and large businesses across the nation and across industry sectors. We have heard from working Australians and their families as well as unions and other organisations that represent workers.

The overwhelming message from our consultations is clear:

  • Fairness: Australians want to get the balance right between fairness and flexibility. Australians believe a strong safety net should exist for those who need it or may need it in the future.
  • Flexibility: a modern Australian economy requires a flexible industrial relations system that boosts productivity and drives economic growth. A safety net should be strongest for those who need it most but it should not preclude flexibility for those who are doing well.
  • Sensible transitional arrangements: transition needs to be sensible and provide certainty and stability to employers and employees.
  • Protection from unlawful industrial action: A new balance is needed between the rights of employees, the rights of those who represent them, and the rights of employers.
  • Small business: Australia’s 750,000 small businesses have special needs that must be accommodated.

To maintain the process of consultation during the implementation period, Federal Labor will establish a Business Advisory Group to consult on the legislative implementation of Forward with Fairness.

Federal Labor will replace Mr Howard’s Work Choices laws and his unfair AWAs.

Federal Labor believes that workers earning under $100,000 per year should be protected in the workplace by a strong safety net which ensures their rights and conditions are not bargained away unfairly.

Federal Labor will introduce a genuine safety net to make sure employees are fairly rewarded for hard work.

  • We will implement a universal safety net of 10 National Employment Standards;
  • We will modernise the award system based on 10 basic award conditions so that conditions such as penalty rates and overtime are properly protected; and
  • Employees will have rights if dismissed unfairly.

Australia’s dynamic economy demands a level of flexibility between high earning employees and their employers.

Workers earning $100,000 or more per annum should be given the flexibility to negotiate their own employment arrangements. This is a commonsense approach which ensures workers with the most bargaining power are given the option to bargain with their employer.

Employees earning less than $100,000 per annum will also have flexibility through awards to bargain with their employer - but a strong safety net will always exist to protect them.

Federal Labor believes flexibility must extend to bargaining at the enterprise level. We recognise a role for genuine, non-union agreements and that a flexibility provision should be included in all enterprise bargains.

Certainty and Stability
Certainty and stability will underpin the transition from Mr Howard’s Work Choices laws and unfair AWAs to Federal Labor’s fairer and more flexible industrial relations system.

Employers will have the full term of existing AWAs to make suitable workplace arrangements for employees currently on AWAs.

For those businesses currently using AWAs, during the two year transition period to the full implementation of Labor’s new industrial relations system in January 2010, individual transitional employment agreements can be made available for new employees or those already on AWAs. These finite transitional employment arrangements must ensure that employees are not disadvantaged against the relevant award or enterprise agreement.

Protection from Unlawful Industrial Action
Labor’s new system builds certainty and stability into our workplaces by ensuring that businesses are protected from unlawful industrial action.

Federal Labor will not allow industrial action to be taken outside a clear set of tough rules. Existing secondary boycott provisions in the Trade Practices Act will be retained. Industrial action will only be allowed after a mandatory secret ballot and during the bargaining period for an enterprise agreement by those engaged in that bargaining.

Federal Labor will maintain existing right of entry provisions. Labor will not allow industrial action to be taken in pursuit of pattern bargaining.

As previously announced, Federal Labor will maintain the Australian Building and Construction Commission until 31 January 2010 when it’s responsibilities will be transferred to a specialist division of Fair Work Australia.

In order to ensure employees and employers gets a fair hearing appointments to Fair Work Australia will be based on merit and go through a bipartisan process.

Small Business
Federal Labor understands the special needs of small business, which is why under Labor’s fairer and more flexible industrial relations system small businesses with fewer then 15 employees will not face an unfair dismissal claim from any employee who has been employed for less than a year.

Small business operators will be able to employ their staff under modernised and simplified awards and with new flexibility clauses for those employees they pay at above award rates.

Small business will also be protected from unlawful and disruptive union activity.

1 Com:

Norm Dixon | August 29, 2007

TONY JONES: So if unions jacked up after the election - having got a Labor government into power, which is what they really want, they jacked up after the election and, and struck over some of these things as they did over the waterfront over IR reforms - you'd be prepared, a Labor government would be prepared to break that strike?

JULIA GILLARD: If industrial action is taken outside those limited circumstances of being protected, if it is taken for any reason or any cause then there will be effective and quick remedies under Labor's system.

TONY JONES: Strike breaking?

JULIA GILLARD: Absolutely. We are saying to our trade union colleagues, we are saying to the business community, we are saying to Australians generally, we don't want to see industrial action. We understand that in a limited window when bargaining for a new collective agreement following a secret ballot, that it is appropriate to protect industrial
action. Any other form of industrial action, for whatever cause it is taken, is not protected and people should expect to feel the full force of the law.


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