Labor’s Industrial Relations Policy — May, 2007

Publisher’s Note: The following is a summary of the Industrial Relations (IR) Policy accepted at the National Labor Party Conference in April 2007. It is included here in the interest of clarity and completeness.

I have summarised the Labor’s IR policy directly from the ALP policy document ‘Forward with Fairness’[1].

I do not agree with this policy imposed on workers in the interests of managing capitalism. It should be noted that there is no mention in the ALP policy document of the ban placed on union secondary boycotts in the Trade Practices Act 1974.

However, to avoid confusion about the content of the IR policy passed at ALP National Conference on 28 April 2007, I have refrained from making comment here. Nevertheless, in a couple of places only, I have distinguished its content from existing IR policy under the current federal government.

__oOo__

Proposed National Industrial Relations System

  1. One National System for the Private Sector using co-operation and referral of powers by the Labor States (currently all states and territorities). Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) and other agencies (Fair Pay Commission, Office of Employment Advocate etc) to be replaced by Fair Work Australia.
  2. Fair Work Australia will include a separate division with jurisdiction to hear and determine unlawful dismissal claims, matters relating to Labor’s minimum entitlements and freedom of association.
  3. Pattern bargaining. The policy is worded as follows “Where more than one employer and their workers or unions with coverage in the workplaces voluntarily agree to collectively bargain together for a single agreement they will be free to do so”.
  4. Abolishes Australian Building & Construction Commission (ABCC). However Fair Work Australia’s inspectorate will have specialist divisions and the first two will be for building and hospitality industries.

Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining is based at the enterprise level. It includes the following aspects:

  1. No statutory individual contracts i.e. Australian Workplace Agreements AWAs
  2. Collective agreements permit:
  • parties to break off negotiations, in which case the industrial arrangements already in place would remain in force;
  • requests for Fair Work Australia to help reach agreement
  • requests for determination of particular matters; or
  • in certain circumstances, permits taking protected industrial action (see conditions below).
  • Parties must bargaining in good faith;

Industrial Action

  1. No strike without a secret ballot.
  2. Workers can take protected industrial action.
  3. The ballot process will be supervised by Fair Work Australia.
  4. Unlawful for employers to pay strike pay.
  5. Employers may lock out workers in response to industrial action by those workers.
  6. Fair Work Australia will have the power to end the industrial action and determine a settlement between the parties for their workplace

Legislated Minimum standards

The existing 5 minimum standards under WorkChoices of the 38 hour week, 4 weeks annual leave, sick leave, parental leave and carers leave, and public holidays have been increased to 10 standards outlined below:

1. Hours of work — 38 hour week for full time workers. Workers may be required to work additional hours, but cannot be required to work unreasonable additional hours.

2. Parental leave —both parents entitled to up to 12 months of unpaid leave associated with the birth of a baby. Also chief care giver to child may be entitled to additional 12 months of unpaid parental leave from their employer.

3. Flexible work for parents — right for parents to request flexible work arrangements until their child reaches school age.

4. Annual leave — 4 weeks’ paid annual leave for full time workers. Part time workers paid pro rata. Shift workers entitled to additional paid week of annual leave.

5. Personal, Carers and Compassionate leave— 10 days’ paid carers leave each year. Part time workers leave paid pro rata. Compassionate leave on the death or serious illness of a family member or a person the worker lives with. Additional 2 days of unpaid personal leave where required for genuine caring purposes and family emergencies.

6. Community Service Leave
Paid community service leave for jury service and unpaid leave for emergency services duties.

7. Public holidays
Labor’s industrial relations system will guarantee public holidays. Workers entitled to penalty rates on public holidays as set out in the award.

8. Information in the workplace
Employers to provide information about the worker’s rights and entitlements at work, including the right of the worker to join a union.

9. Termination of Employment & Redundancy
All workers will be entitled to fair notice of termination

10. Long Service Leave

Industry Awards

As well the ALP policy outlines minimum industry award conditions including:

1. Minimum wages. Based on skill classifications and career structures, incentive based payments and bonuses, wage rates and other arrangements for apprentices and trainees;
2. The type of work performed, conditions vary if the worker is permanent or casual, and flexible working arrangements, particularly for workers with family responsibilities, including part time employment and job sharing;
3. Arrangements for when work is performed, including hours of work, rostering, rest
breaks and meal breaks;
4. Overtime rates for workers on long hours;
5. Penalty rates for workers doing shifts or working on unsocial, irregular or unpredictable hours, on weekends or public holidays.
6. Minimum annualised wage in lieu of penalty rates where patterns of work in an occupation, industry or enterprise. Workers not to be disadvantaged;
7. Allowances including reimbursement of expenses, higher duties and disability based payments;
8. Leave, leave loadings and the arrangements for taking leave;
9. Superannuation; and
10. Dispute settling procedures.

Unfair Dismissal

Claims for unfair dismissal may be permitted on the following conditions:

  1. where there are 15 or more workers, must have worked for 6 months;
  2. where there are fewer than 15 workers, must have worked for 12 months;
  3. if the worker is not covered by an award, the worker must be earning annual remuneration of less than $98,200 (to be indexed).
  4. 7 days to lodge claim
  5. Remedy for unfair dismissal may be reinstatement or compensation. There will be a cap on compensation paid.


[1] Published at http://www.alp.org.au/media/0407/msirloo280.php . Website checked on 2 May 2007.

One response to “Labor’s Industrial Relations Policy — May, 2007

  1. In a bulletin on Labor’s new platform, law firm, Blake Dawson and Waldren (Julia Gillard’s old firm and no militant worker organisation), it states that the ALP IR platform is silent on:

    1. Rights of entry for union officials in workplaces;

    2. Preference for unionists in awards and agreements;

    3. Capacity to include payroll deduction provisions for union fees in awards and agreements;

    4. The unlawful boycott provisions in the Trade Practices Act;

    5. The capacity to bring actions in tort against unions and union officials without a prior cooling off period or some certificate having first been obtained from an industrial tribunal;

    6. Whether a “conveniently belong” or similar test would operate where unions seek registration or a change in eligibility rules; whether a bias towards industry rather than craft unions would be restored in the regulation of organisations;

    7. Whether Fair Work Australia would have powers to resolve demarcation disputes between unions; and anything about unfair work contracts or the recently enacted Independent Contractors Act 2006

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