WorkChoices repealed but no dancing in the street

Union members may be interested to hear that legislation to repeal WorkChoices will be introduced on Tuesday, 25 Nov 2008.

CPSU Elections 2008
CPSU Elections 2008

The deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will introduce ‘Fair Work’ legislation in the Federal parliament to repeal WorkChoices and rewrite the Workplace Relations Act that was introduced in the parliament in 1996 at the beginning of the Howard era.

This is one year after the election of the Rudd Labor Government.

Union Response

The Community and Public Sector Union [CPSU] spent a lot of money to campaign against WorkChoices and get Labor elected. Yet no emails or website has declared the repeal of WorkChoices, surely a ‘momentous’ occasion, especially since millions were spent on the ‘Your Rights at Work’  campaign. What about the members? However the same people who led this campaign are busy getting Labor incumbents back into office in the union.

Nevertheless one lone candidate has called for disaffiliation with the ALP. [Under the leadership of Steven Jones the CPSU affiliated with the Labor Party in 2007.]

It is interesting to see how devoid of ideas the Labor leadership turned out to be. They seek to centralise the industrial relations system with little regard to how it affects workers in the regions. When Labor centralised arbitration and conciliation in the past there was at least a role at the negotiating table for unions large and small. Not so under this industrial model, hidden behind legalism, it is a place solely for management and bureaucracy. Not surprising given Rudd’s and Gilliard’s backgrounds in bureaucracy and law.

Fair Work Bill
Earlier in March 2008, a transition bill was introduced in the federal parliament change individual contracts (Australian Workplace Agreements [AWAs]) and to permit centralised and legislated awards.

Under the proposed legislation sources inside unions have  complained that union will be unable to sort out demarcation issues because the Labor government refuses to allow such issues to be argued out in the workplace or in the Industrial Relations tribunals.

The Labor government has remained committed to the same economic rationalist approach of previous governments — economic efficiency, profit and growth.

Detailed Analysis
For details of what is proposed in the legislation see New industral laws under the ALP

It is unlikely that ‘Forward with Fairness’ legislation will be debated in theparliament tomorrow. Much of the legislation will not take effect until 2010.Union members may wish to look at the book After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet for an analysis of where unions currently stand.

Ian Curr
November 2008

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