New industral laws under the ALP

BT’s podcast of ABC report of Julia Gillard’s IR speech at the National Press Club 17 Sept 2008

Julia Gillard - Deputy Prime Minister
Julia Gillard – Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion.

Fair Work Australia — The following comment(s) from Julia Gillard on Unfair Dismissal:

“In the past small business operators have raised genuine concerns about the impact of unfair dismissal laws on their business activities. The Government agrees with them that they should be allowed to get on with running their businesses, making a profit and giving people jobs,” she said.

When you look at it workers working in small business have never been able to bargain collectively — at least not in an effective way. There are big unions involved in small business like the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association SDA however they have not organised effectively in small business at the grass roots level preferring to cut deals with big businesses like Woolworths and governments to serve their members.

So for all Gillard’s talk at the National Press Club and in the parliament, her claims of ‘forward with fairness’ — at least in small business — is a nullity. Her laws carry little weight at the shopfloor level where the small business owner has always held the upper hand.

“The previous Liberal government swept aside all unfair dismissal protections for employees of businesses with fewer than 100 employees. And if various former Liberal ministers are to be believed, the Liberal Party wanted to go further and junk protection for every one.”

Workers never came off very well under the unfair dismissal laws even before WorkChoices.

In 2003, before WorkChoices, only 42 out of over 8,000 workers who were unfairly dismissed were reinstated by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission . Good for the 42 that got their jobs back but what about the other 4,000 who would have paid out more to their lawyers than they would have been awarded under the WorkPlace Relations Act [See AIRC yearly report 2003].

The rulings of the Industrial Relations Tribunal under Labor’s unfair dismissal laws did not do much for workers either, as most workers did not have the wherewithal to even get their cases heard, much less get a decent result from lawyers in the IR club so distant from the workplace.

And of course, if an employee is made redundant because of a business downturn or their position is no longer needed, it is not grounds for unfair dismissal. But where dismissal is justified the Code simply requires the employer to:

• give the employee a warning, based on a reason that validly relates to the employee’s conduct or capacity to do the job; and
• provide a reasonable opportunity for the employee to improve his or her performance.

“It’s as simple as that. Multiple warnings are not required. There is no requirement for `three strikes and you’re out’. It is desirable, but not necessary, for a warning to be in writing,” she said.

Workers and the Trade Union movement are in big trouble under Labor or Liberal. In harsh financial times, both parties are competing more than ever for the friendship of business at the expense of workers.

More Gillard Quotes

On Strikes

Gillard also said:

“Unprotected industrial action will not be tolerated under any circumstances,” she said.

“Even short unplanned stop work actions can have devastating effects on employers with time-critical processes.”

What she should be saying is that workers need is someone in the union to be able to stand up to the CEOs from time to time and tell them to get stuffed.

However Gillard told the National Press Club: “Employees who engage in wildcat or snap strikes or bans instead of following proper dispute resolution process will face significant consequences.”

Employers could tolerate the bans or they could stand down or lock out employees and deduct pay, Ms Gillard said.

“But offensive pre-emptive lockouts taken by an employer when employees haven’t taken any industrial action will no longer be permitted.”

In reply one union delegate said:  “It would be worth the loss of the occasional day’s pay to have the boss worried about what we would be doing next.” Unionism is about democracy in the workplace not about a CPI wage rise every time an EBA comes around.

On the Building Worker Watchdog (ABCC)

In answer to a question that the Federal Government may water down the ABCC Julia Gillard said that this was not correct, that the federal government will fund the ABCC fully till 2010 and then seek to include that function in a special inspectorate set up for that purpose.

Ian Curr
17 September 2008


Worklife members for those able to hold in there while you read Julia Gillard’s speech to the Press Club, here is a link to it, as well as a link to fact sheets on the new Govt plans for IR policies.

Gillard’s Press Club speech

Fact Sheets

After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet

WorkLife Forum: trade unions in 21st century

CFMEU Rights on Site Campaign


7 thoughts on “New industral laws under the ALP

  1. For some reason there has been a flurry of books coming out that claim to set the tone for the new labor government’s IR agenda.

    One such new book is , ‘The State of Industrial Relations‘, put out by the Evatt foundation makes the following claim:

    “The … difference between Australia and the United Kingdom; namely, prolonged conflict over the legitimacy of trade unionism was relatively rare in this country [Australia] prior to the Howard government …”
    “Robin Gollan found that the issue ‘did not raise the same interest in Australia’. ”

    It is curious that a foundation that bears the name Evatt would publish such a view.

    Firstly, unions were in serious decline long before WorkChoices.

    Added to this, it was Evatt’s opponent in the Australian parliament, Prime Minister Menzies, who made an all out attack on the right to organise in unions.

    It was the then Prime Minister Menzies who said: “The laws are to be made, not by your elected representatives, but by the Communist-led Waterside Workers Federation. This is more than a challenge to employers. This is a challenge to Parliament and the whole conception of parliamentary democracy – a precious thing which does not exist in Moscow but is passionately believed in here.” from the recently published ‘After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet

    After the Waterfront had this to say about the 1954 Waterside Workers Federation dispute:

    No bluff about crane rates here [as Howard and Reith had during the 1998 Patricks dispute].

    Menzies attacked the [union] leadership head on.

    The Waterside Workers Federation [WWF] was not cowed by the rhetoric. They put their faith in the workers’ ability to win the strike. The union was well prepared for the strike. The union branches around the country set up committees with responsibility for picketing, publicity, relief and entertainment (to ease hardship and to foster camaraderie). Solidarity flourished as rank-and-file members and their supporters were drawn into these activities. Speakers went to factories to put the union’s side of the issue, thousands of leaflets were distributed, and donations and support flowed from other unions. — from After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet

    But enough of historical argument.

    The Evatt foundation book, ‘The state of Industrial Relations’ makes the claim that the introduction of ‘Forward with Fairness’ by Julia Gillard means that ‘A new industrial peace is being struck. The main point of the recent political contention is, or soon will be, gone. Australia is moving on.’

    We can only hope that unions challenge the power of the boss in the workplace under labor’s new rules in the way the Waterside Workers Federation did during the Recruitment dispute of 1954.

    See Phil O’Brien’s book “Peace – a workers journey” published by Social History of Australia Publishing Enterprise [SHAPE]
    After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet‘ published by LeftPress
    NT Govt uses WorkChoices to stop teacher strike

  2. Dan Moss
    23 Sep08

    THE NT Government used the Howard government’s Workchoices laws to scuttle a three-day teachers’ strike.

    It took the Australian Education Union NT Branch (AEU-NT) to the Industrial Relations Commission over the weekend to avert the strike.

    The AEU-NT is angry that the government told the commission the planned strike would cause “significant harm to a third party” – Year 12 and Year nine students”.

    AEU-NT chief Adam Lampe said: “This union gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight this legislation in the `Your Rights at Work’ campaign prior to the last federal election and here they are using that legislation to take away teachers’ rights to strike…MORE at

  3. It’s Time 14……….

    To face up to the fact that Howard’s and Gillard’s tough cop on the beat the Australian Building and Construction commission is there for the sole purpose to attack trade union standards and trade union principles. The agenda of the (ABCC) endangers the very existence of our trade unions. It is up to the rank and file to get our union leaders to serve the purpose for which they are paid and that is the defence and advancement of their member’s interests.

    It is not so long ago that workers were told “Your rights at work are worth fighting for” and that to get rid of Howard’s IR laws we would have to get rid of him. Well, there was no fight, just a stroll around the block every month or so or a sausage sizzle. Then we were told that “Your job is worth voting for” Well workers could not argue with that as long as we got rid of Howard and his filthy IR laws and get rid of him we did but not his filthy IR laws or the (ABCC). It was Julia Gillard who whilst telling building workers that the Rudd government would be keeping the tough cop on the block (ABCC) and that it was an ALP government that got rid of the BLF in Victoria and NSW. What job protection did the workers vote for the ALP get them? There is no right to strike, secret ballots before a strike may be called, the boss can warn a worker once, verbally – not written and then that worker is out the door.

    The trade union leadership spent workers money on a million dollar television campaign, “Your rights at work, worth advertising for” CFMEU national secretary David Noonan said the advertising campaign would lift community awareness about the powers of the (ABCC) and its heavy-handed and undemocratic assault on their human rights. Kevin Rudd has refused any compromise, we now have the spectacle of union leaders grovelling for the support of ALP backbenchers.

    “Your rights at work forgetting about” Julia Gillard in 2007 wanted to leave the impression that if elected to government the ALP would tear up Howard’s Work Choices. It did not happen. Gillard said she would be winding back Work Choices not scrapping it. ACTU president Sharan Burrows said. “We’re not sure what she means by that which is why we’re encouraged”. The stupidity exposed by this statement explains why today only 18.9 per cent of the Australian workforce is unionised.

    Whilst the ACTU has been spending member’s funds on advertising campaigns union leaders have been working behind the scenes to prevent any confrontation with state and federal ALP governments.

    What workers in this country deserve is better union leadership and the need to build and strengthen our trade union movement and this can be accomplished by getting rid of the (ABCC) and all anti- worker legislation and a complete break with the ALP.

    Bernie Neville

    Honorary Member Qld ETU.

    Contact:- Tel: (07) 3300 1405

    We are a group of rank and file workers who were militantly active during the SEQEB Strike in 1985 against Bjelke-Petersen: in the MUA struggle against Corrigan, Reith and Howard 1988; and against Howard’s vicious IR laws.


  4. CPSU leaders facing election challenge, as nominations close
    Wednesday 24th September 2008 8:52 pm EST

    At least four of the CPSU’s seven-strong leadership face a challenge
    at the election beginning on November 19, after contenders including a
    former Greens mayor of Sydney’s inner-city Marrickville emerged when
    nominations closed at noon today. But in a surprise development, the
    “hard Left” Members First group has decided not to run a ticket for
    the key leadership positions, after taking some heart from the union’s
    advocacy for a return to more centralised bargaining.

    The Australian Electoral Commission is yet to release official details
    of nominations, but CPSU (PSU group) national secretary Stephen Jones
    has confirmed that the seven “national officers”, the full-time paid
    officials who constitute the national executive, will run for office
    again, as the “Stephen Jones team”.

    Apart from Jones, the national officers are assistant national
    secretary Mark Gepp, national president Louise Persse, deputy national
    presidents Lisa Newman and Michael Tull and deputy secretaries Rupert
    Evans and Nadine Flood.

    Jones told Workplace Express the leadership believed it had “a good
    story to tell” in its past three years, in which it had not only kept
    the union together, but had run “a pretty good show” against a
    [Howard] government that was “trying to put us out of business”.

    He said that over the past six months the union had been working to
    develop its Agenda for Change which aimed to develop a long-term plan
    to be implemented if his team was re-elected.

    Jones said he’d sought in his time as leader to focus on the things
    that unify members rather than divide them, and that would continue.

    Sam Byrne, a former Greens Mayor of Marrickville and an active member
    of that party who works as an access and FOI officer at the Migrant
    and Refugee Review Tribunals, will contest the deputy national
    president position against incumbents Newman and Tull.

    Byrne, who isn’t running as an endorsed Greens candidate, opposes the
    union’s affiliation with the ALP, which he says will cost more than
    $200,000 a year. He also opposes the maintenance of the $1 a week levy
    on members that was directed to the Your Rights at Work campaign,
    arguing that while the levy was justified to remove former Prime
    Minister John Howard, keeping it and directing it internally wasn’t
    justified given fees were already high.

    Byrne says internal democracy within the CPSU is “defunct” and that
    forums are needed to give members the opportunity to discuss issues.
    He says the NTEU has a structure that allows much more localised
    decision-making and input from members, whereas in the CPSU all
    day-to-day decision-making is by the executive, with members entitled
    to attend the twice-yearly governing council members, which he says
    are poorly advertised.

    Ben Kirkwood, a tribunal officer in the case consolidation and
    jurisdiction team of the Migrant and Refugee Review Tribunals, will
    run for the deputy secretary role against incumbents Evans and Flood.

    Kirkwood, a workplace delegate at the Migrant and Refugee Review
    Tribunals, says he wants to break down the perception that the union
    is monolithic and external to its members. In doing this, it is
    important that a range of different voices are heard within the union
    and that members feel that they are setting the agenda.

    Members First has been contesting CPSU ballots since the late 1990s
    with some success, such as when it won the paid position of ACT branch
    assistant secretary in the 1999 election.

    While the Members First team will seek election to governing council
    and section council positions, it won’t be nominating for any of the
    seven key leadership positions.

    In a statement issued this morning, Members First’s Paul Oboohov, who
    works for DEEWR, says the organisation has for the past decade argued
    for “whole of government” bargaining and “for basic democratic
    functioning and forums that have been stripped away in that time”.

    “It is to the credit of current CPSU national officials that they have
    initiated their Agenda for Change. . . which includes a move towards
    whole of government bargaining, and resourcing delegates”, he said.

    Oboohov added that the Rudd Government’s opposition to industry
    bargaining models would mean that realising the Agenda for Change
    would require “mass involvement” of the CPSU rank and file in
    overcoming that opposition – which would require “fundamental and deep
    democratic reform” within the union.

    “Members First will campaign for such a democratic transformation of
    the CPSU”, he said.

    The AEC is unlikely to be able to confirm nominations until late
    tomorrow or early Friday. If no challengers emerge for Jones and his
    assistant secretary and president, they will be elected unopposed.

    Jones became national secretary at the last election, in 2005 (see
    Related Article).

    From Workplace Express an IR subscription service.

  5. To: Members First activists and supporters,

    In previous CPSU national elections over the past decade we have run as Members First in the period of the Howard government, when the CPSU leadership accepted agency bargaining unquestioningly, and managements introduced AWA’s, with Peter Reith’s principle of “let the managers manage” being the untrammelled order of the day.

    With the advent of an ALP government that has instructed the federal public service not to issue any more AWA’s, has loosened up restrictions on the operation of the CPSU in the workplace, and a CPSU leadership that has canvassed the possibility of whole of government bargaining through the Agenda for Change initiative, the landscape has changed. The officials have now taken up a fair slice of the Members First agenda, and is a measure of our success in keeping the issues alive in difficult circumstances all these years.

    While the Agenda for Change includes a lot of what has to occur to undo what was done to the federal public service under Howard, it remains to be seen whether the CPSU officials will follow through on aspects such as moving towards whole of government bargaining, given the federal government’s opposition to industry wide bargaining and the CPSU now being affiliated to the ALP in both NSW and South Australia.

    What remains as the overriding issue is the parlous state of democracy in the CPSU, with much of the lower levels of the former representative structure having been axed, particularly at the regional level, as well as the top down managerial style of the CPSU officials. This also goes to whether the CPSU can mobilise members to be able to carry out the Agenda for Change, which depends on the members being able to participate in democratic forums.

    Given all this, and that it appears that no other alternative group is likely to run in the upcoming CPSU national elections, a group of Members First activists in Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide believe it is now time for us to seek a broader level of support within the CPSU for an ‘agenda for change’ of the union itself. We have put together a statement (see attached) designed to test the level of support for an alternative, progressive ticket for the CPSU national elections in November.
    If you agree with the statement, I would ask that you circulate it within your workplace, agency and CPSU networks. Also please think about putting your name to the statement, and whether you would like to run on such a ticket for local Section or National Officer positions. Nominations are now open, and close at 10am on the 24th September, so we have two weeks to circulate the statement to all our networks.

    Please circulate as far and as wide as you can.

    In solidarity,

    Paul Oboohov
    Ph 0417 048 217 (m)

  6. Key members of CPSU leadership returned unopposed
    from WorkPlace Express
    30 September 2008 4:15pm

    CPSU (PSU group) secretary Stephen Jones has been returned unopposed for a further three years, along with another two members of his seven-strong executive, after nominations for the union’s election closed late last week.

    The AEC confirmed yesterday that Jones, his assistant national secretary, Mark Gepp, and national president, Louise Persse, had been returned after they were the only nominees for their full-time positions.

    However, the incumbent deputy national secretaries – Nadine Flood and Rupert Evans – and deputy national presidents – Lisa Newman and Michael Tull – face a contest to retain their positions.

    Sam Byrne, the former Greens Mayor of Marrickville in inner-city Sydney, is running for the deputy national president position against Newman and Tull, while Ben Kirkwood is running for the deputy national secretary role against Evans and Flood.

    Both Byrne and Kirkwood work at the Sydney registry of the Migrant and Refugee Review Tribunals (see Related Article).

    The full-time section secretary for the ABC, Graeme Thomson has also been returned unopposed, while Sam Popovski is the new full-time section secretary for the CSIRO, after Pauline Gallagher stepped down.

    The honorary section secretary for DEEWR, Sue Duckett, has been re-elected unopposed.

    The 2008 election is the first in some time that hasn’t been fully contested by Members First. It announced last week that it wouldn’t be running for the seven full-time executive positions (the national officer positions), but would be seeking election to governing council and section council positions (see Related Article).

    The ballot for contested positions will open on Wednesday, November 19, and close on Wednesday, December 10.

    Jones said last night he was “grateful for the opportunity to lead such a great union at such as crucial in our movement’s history” and that his leadership team were proud of what they had achieved together and were keen to do more.

    “As for the future, we are already working with thousands of members delegates and activists to develop the CPSU’s Agenda for Change program, which is designed to make real progress on big ticket items such as public sector funding, government transparency, closing public sector pay gaps, workplace safety and work and family balance.”

    Jones, whose new term starts on January 1 next year, is backing the candidacies of his four executive members who are facing contested elections.

  7. What happened to the Commonwealth Employment Service?

    … The CPSU officials thus secured the role they said that they opposed but secretly cherished.

    They received a place at the table even if it meant managing the change to a privatised Job Network Scheme.

    The national executive of the union was given input into the new Public Service Act which was used to weed out any critical views through the use of the APS code of conduct.

    from ‘After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet‘,
    Chapter 4: Comatose — Corporate unionism

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