Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Govt broke election promise to ditch Work Choices - ACTU

14 January 2009 Content provided to you by AAP.

By Kate Hannon, National Political EditorCANBERRA, Jan 13 AAP - Labor has broken its election promise to ditch the Howard government's Work Choices industrial laws, the ACTU says.

The peak union body says restrictions on matters allowed in enterprise bargaining under proposed new industrial laws mean Labor's election promise to allow "free bargaining" has not been fulfilled.

The ACTU, which has been largely supportive of Labor's plans, also attacked the award modernisation process which it said could reduce wages and conditions, undermining the safety net.

The criticisms are contained in a 100-page submission, released on Tuesday, to the Senate inquiry into the government's proposed Fair Work Bill designed to replace Work Choices at the end of the year.

In the submission, the ACTU suggests more than 150 amendments to fix "flaws" in the bill now before the Senate.

The ACTU also described as "absurd" a right to request flexible working conditions, which could include extended parental leave, because the request could be denied by employers on "reasonable business grounds".

"This is absurd, and leaves employees worse off than they were under Work Choices," the submission said.

On the bargaining process, it said the proposed rules undermined a workers' fundamental right to representation.

Releasing the submission, ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said it was "crunch time" for Labor to deliver on its election promise and he also challenged the Opposition to support the bill in the Senate.

"Working Australians who voted for change at the last election will be very disappointed if these flaws are not corrected by the Senate," Mr Lawrence said.

But Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard rejected the ACTU's concerns saying the Fair Work bill delivered on the government's policy released before the last election.

"The Government understands that not every side of the debate has got everything they wanted," a spokeswoman for Ms Gillard said."We believe that means our new laws have got the balance right.

"The Australian Retailers' Association also attacked the proposed new laws in its submission, also released on Tuesday, saying small business is ill-equipped to cope with the new industrial system.It said the new laws risked creating an environment which pays lip service to employers' rights.

"This proposed bill discriminates heavily against small business - the engine room of Australia's economy," the association says.

"The one size fits all approach to industrial relations is old world thinking and fails to take into account the needs of the modern workplace.

"The inquiry will hold public hearings in all capital cities except Darwin starting from January 27 and is due to report to the Senate on February 27.

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