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10/3/2009

The Greens have revealed their ‘wish list’ for amendments to the Government’s IR legislation, including linking redundancies to executives’ pay and allowing unions and employers to negotiate any matters in workplace agreements, including environmental ones.

The first amendment in the Greens’ list is that Fair Work Australia (FWA) be given the power to prohibit employees being made redundant if the FWA considers their executives to be excessively remunerated.

Consequence

An unintended consequence of such a law (which has no chance of being passed because the Liberals would join with Labor to defeat it) is that once FWA declared a level of pay in a particular circumstance was not excessive, there would be a tendency for that to become the new minimum rate for all executives everywhere — as it had been declared ‘acceptable’ by FWA.

Last week, Family First Senator Steve Fielding announced he would introduce legislation so that executives could not sack workers if the executives had received a bonus, or pay increase, in the previous 12 months.

They also could not sack the workers if the executives were ‘due to’ get a bonus or pay increase in the next 12 months (there was no detail on how that curious scheme would work).

Presumably, if Senator Fielding can’t get his legislation up he would back the Greens’ scheme.

Uncertainty about Libs’ position

There is uncertainty about the Liberal’s position on the legislation — Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has at various times declared WorkChoices ‘dead’ and said Labor has a mandate on IR; however, others in the Liberal Party want it opposed.

If the Liberals go ahead with strong opposition to various elements of the Bill (such as unfair dismissals, union right of entry and arbitration), then Labor will need the votes of all the Greens and the two independent Senators, Fielding and Nick Xenophon.

IR Minister Julia Gillard began ‘horse-trading’ with them yesterday afternoon and prior to that had refused to reveal what she might agree to concede to win their votes.

Amendments

The full list of desired amendments handed to her by the Greens yesterday was:
(i) provide Fair Work Australia (FWA) with the power to prohibit employees being made redundant where FWA considers executives are being excessively remunerated
(ii) provide FWA with broader powers to resolve workplace disputes (as it stands, FWA will have limited power in relation to bargaining disputes, but no general powers to finally determine other workplace disputes, leaving court action as the only final option for workers)
(iii) allow parties to bargain over any matters, including environmental matters
(iv) ensure unfair dismissal protections are accessible to all workers fairly
(v) provide further protections for Individual Flexibility Arrangements so they cannot be used to exploit workers like Australian Workplace Agreements were used
(vi) urge the government to submit the legislation to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for advice as to whether it meets Australia’s international obligations
26-week, government-funded paid [parental] leave scheme for both mothers and fathers funding for employment law services.

Neither Senator Fielding nor Senator Xenophon have as yet issued their demands for changes to the IR legislation.

http://www.workplaceinfo.com.au/NewsDetail.asp?ID=22454

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