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Category Archives: IR

Third state signs on for national IR laws

Ewin Hannan | June 10, 2009

Article from: The Australian

TASMANIA has joined South Australia and Victoria in handing over its industrial relations powers to the commonwealth but NSW and Queensland remain non-committal about embracing uniform national workplace laws.

Ahead of a meeting between Julia Gillard and state ministers tomorrow, the Tasmanian cabinet yesterday gave in-principle approval for the state to refer the balance of its private sector industrial relations powers to the Rudd government.

Tasmania’s Workplace Relations Minister, Lisa Singh, said the cabinet decision was a vote of confidence in federal Labor’s Fair Work Act.

“The Howard government, under Work Choices, took all constitutional corporations into the federal industrial relations system,” she said. “However, sole traders and partnerships continued to be covered by state-and territory-based jurisdictions, causing confusion for workers and employers. These changes remedy that.”

The referral applies only to the private sector, and the Tasmanian public service will not be affected by the decision.

“For workers, access to modern awards means simpler, nationally consistent wages, loadings and penalty payments that will be revised on a regular basis,” Ms Singh said.

“For employers, participation in the national system will also slash red tape as well as simplifying and streamlining compliance measures.”

The South Australian government earlier announced it had joined Victoria in referring its industrial relations powers to the commonwealth. Queensland and NSW are yet to declare their positions, while Western Australia appears unlikely to refer its powers, having set up its own review of state workplace laws.

Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Cameron Dick said a national industrial relations system would be a key agenda item at tomorrow’s meeting.

“The commonwealth government is pursuing a clear national agenda, and each jurisdiction must consider what model will deliver the fairest and most efficient system for both workers and businesses in their jurisdiction,” he said. “Queensland is committed to working co-operatively with the federal government, within the context of the Fair Work legislation passed by the federal parliament, to ensure that we achieve the best outcome possible for Queensland workers and the Queensland community as a whole.”

A spokesman for NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Hatzistergos said the state government would not finalise its position until all of the Fair Work legislation had been passed by the Senate.,,25613591-5013404,00.html

Ben Schneiders
June 4, 2009
THE Rudd Government faces a union backlash at the next federal election after Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered a stunning rebuff to unions at the ACTU Congress.

In a speech that drew howls of protest from the floor, Ms Gillard dashed union hopes of a further wave of workplace reform and decried union thuggery in the building industry.

Referring to claims of violence during the West Gate Bridge dispute, Ms Gillard said: “Balaclavas, violence and intimidation must be unreservedly condemned as wrong by every unionist, every ALP member, every decent Australian.

“The Rudd Labor Government will do everything necessary to ensure that we do not see this appalling conduct again.”

Her message was greeted with calls of “bullshit”, “shame”, “you’re the Liberal minister” and chants of “one law for all” — a reference to the unique laws building workers face.

As the uproar grew, ACTU President Sharan Burrow interjected and called for calm.

Senior union figures later labelled Ms Gillard’s speech as deliberately provocative and warned that union support for Labor at next year’s election was not assured in the absence of substantial workplace law changes. Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Brian Boyd said the issue would be pursued at next month’s ALP national conference, and that union support for the Government “could not be taken for granted”.

Other sources said preselections for parliamentary seats could be challenged and money held back from the party.

With new Fair Work laws to take effect next month, unions this week endorsed a policy seeking more changes in areas such as bargaining and industrial action.

Ms Gillard rejected the push. “The future of Australian trade unionism will not be determined by further lobbying in Canberra, it will be determined by bringing Fair Work to working people in their workplaces.”

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said later that more change was needed. “We do expect the Labor Government to play its part,” he said. “That’s what partnership is all about.”

But it was a resolution condemning Labor for not abolishing the Howard government’s Australian Building and Construction Commission that caused most controversy. The commission has tough powers that can result in workers being jailed for not co-operating.

Yesterday more than 500 delegates — including all the ACTU leadership — wore yellow T-shirts during Ms Gillard’s speech in protest at the laws.

Ms Gillard, referring to the West Gate Bridge dispute, said: “I am sure you were appalled to read of dangerous car chases across Melbourne … involving car loads of balaclava-wearing people, criminal damage to vehicles resulting in arrests, threats of physical violence and intimidation of individuals.

“The last time I read of balaclavas in an industrial dispute they were being worn by security thugs at the Melbourne waterfront when the MUA fought its history-making battle against Patricks and the Liberal Party.”

It is believed 10 people have been charged in relation to the West Gate Bridge incident.

The Government has said it will replace the commission from February 2010 with a special directorate with as yet unspecified powers.

A review it ordered has recommended keeping, in watered-down form, many of its powers.

Well, you can buy it here:

Posted Wed May 13, 2009 8:00am AEST
Updated Wed May 13, 2009 8:06am AEST

The Community and Public Sector Union has welcomed the Federal Government’s decision to remove the extra 2 per cent efficiency dividend imposed on the public sector.

The Government did not include the additional dividend in last night’s Budget. Government departments will now have to reduce their running costs by 1.25 per cent rather than 3.25 per cent over the next financial year.

CPSU national secretary Stephen Jones says while the union would like to see the efficiency dividend removed altogether, it is a welcome first step.

“It’s a welcome surprise, we’ve been campaigning hard in the community over the last nine months to have that special efficiency dividend knocked off,” he said.

“That’s a good start but there’s more work to be done to ensure that this blunt instrument which is a tax on jobs and a tax on services is removed from the Budget in future years.”

Mr Jones says on the jobs front, the Budget has delivered mixed results.

He says the Government has created around 3,200 real jobs.

“Unfortunately at the same time it’s axed around 1,700 existing positions, that to us doesn’t make sense – you don’t create jobs by cutting them,” he said.

“So on a critical test, the Government gets about five out of 10 on public sector jobs.”

Kate Benson and Louise Hall
May 5, 2009

“I become a zombie” … O’Bray Smith, a midwife, warns that patient safety is threatened by lengthy night shifts. Photo: Ben Rushton

FOR the first time, the life-threatening physical and psychological effects of shift work are being used to push for bigger pay packets for nurses and midwives in NSW.

The NSW Nurses Association launched its claim in the Industrial Relations Commission yesterday, calling in experts to cite studies linking shift work with higher rates of breast cancer, heart disease, miscarriage, clinical depression and divorce.

The test case could improve conditions for thousands of shift workers in other professions who have spent decades battling its effects.

“The reality is after a lifetime of nursing there are effects. Somebody has to work the night duty because hospitals operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” the union’s general secretary, Brett Holmes, said yesterday.

He said the State Government was opposing the claim, which calls for night penalty rates to rise from 15 per cent to 25 per cent – the first increase in more than 30 years – arguing it would cost too much and could set a precedent for other public servants.

Professor Ron Grunstein, a sleep expert from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, said the ill effects of working nights could not be ignored.

He spent five hours in the witness box yesterday, citing scientific evidence from studies that included more than 100,000 nurses in the United States and showed those on night duty experienced increases in coronary artery disease, breast cancer, weight gain, eating disorders, miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight.

“In the 1970s, it was thought the effects of shift work were minor and transitory, but we know better now,” he said.

Last year the Australian Workers Union called for a review of working hours after a United Nations report found people who worked night shifts had a higher risk of contracting cancer.

The study, which was published in The Lancet and endorsed by the World Health Organisation, found that night shifts were carcinogenic because workers were exposed to light at night, disrupting their circadian rhythms.

It found that nurses who worked at night and flight attendants who continually crossed time zones had a higher risk of breast cancer than women who did not have their circadian rhythms disrupted, and that constant light, dim light at night, or simulated chronic jet lag could substantially increase tumour development.

O’Bray Smith, a registered midwife who works in a Sydney delivery ward, spends four months a year working 10-hour nights and says it completely disrupts her life.

“I become a zombie, I don’t see my friends, I can’t play competitive sport, I don’t do any physical activity before or after my shift because I am too exhausted, I never have time to shop so I eat junk food and I get depressed when there is nothing to be depressed about.

“I end up doing a full shift in an acute area without having enough sleep, and that impacts on patient safety. The extra money won’t give us our health back but at least it will reward us for doing what we are doing.”

Scott Rochfort
April 20, 2009

A BATTLE is brewing between Australia Post’s top brass and its army of 35,000 postal workers amid union accusations the government-owned enterprise is preparing to force staff to take unpaid leave.

The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) has warned it is considering industrial action amid signs the postal carrier is seeking sacrifices from its workforce to help tackle the impact of the economic slowdown.

“It’s getting to crunch time,” said the union’s NSW secretary, Jim Metcher, who said the $1 million cash bonus paid to Australia Post’s managing director Graeme John last year was particularly galling for his members. Mr John’s overall package for the year was $2.9 million, up 9 per cent on the previous 12 months.

The top seven executives at Australia Post received $2.6 million in cash bonuses last financial year.

Mr Metcher said the union had received calls from workers in Sydney who had been asked to take unpaid leave.

“People were strong-armed to take leave without pay in two-week blocks,” Mr Metcher said.

Australia Post has denied this. But an Australia Post spokesman did confirm the company had held meetings with staff, highlighting the impact of the financial crisis on its profits.

“There’s been informal chats around the business that there will be tough times for everyone,” he said.

However, the spokesman denied the union’s claims that staff had already been asked to take leave. He argued there was actually a shortage of postal workers in some areas.

One area where Australia Post could be feeling the pinch from the economic slowdown is in its express freight and parcel joint ventures with Qantas.

The spokesman, however, dismissed rumours the mail carrier had already warned staff it would post a $300 million loss this financial year. It reported a $432 million net profit last financial year.

But it is clear relations between Australia Post and the union have hit rock bottom.

The union has already raised concerns — which Australia Post has denied — that hundreds of postal workers have had compensation claims unfairly rejected by the company.

The CEPU, which is in enterprise bargaining talks with Australia Post, has also raised objections over the company’s shift towards hiring part-time or casual staff.

“I’m actually advocating that we take unprotected industrial action to reach agreement over these two issues (worker’s compensation claims and full-time staff),” Mr Metcher said.

By correspondents in Paris
Agence France-Presse
April 10, 2009 12:00am

A SENIOR manager at French auto parts maker Faurecia was being held overnight by workers angry at plans to restructure a factory southwest of Paris, a union official said.
The official in the CFDT union said the boss of a plant in Brieres-les-Scelles, about 45 kilometres (30 miles) from Paris, had been detained by workers in the latest incident of “bossnapping.”

A number of managers in France have been held hostage overnight by workers in recent weeks over planned job cuts. In each case, they have been released unharmed, often after a promise to restart negotiations.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has vowed to put an end to the practice, saying workers angry over layoffs must nevertheless obey the law and not hold executives captive.

“What is this business of sequestering people? We have the rule of law, and I will not let matters go on like that,” Sarkozy had said in a speech.

“We can understand that people are angry, but this anger will subside with answers and results, not by aggravating matters with actions that are contrary to the law,” he said.

Recent polls show that up to half of French people believe workers are justified in taking executives captive to seek better redundancy packages during the economic crisis.,27753,25316189-462,00.html

The Advertiser
April 08, 2009 12:00am

A third of SMEs don’t understand IR laws
48pc concerned about changes

MORE than a third of small business owners have no understanding of new industrial relations laws being phased in on July 1, according to a survey.

The Telstra Business Industrial Relations survey of 282 Australian business owners found three-quarters were aware the system was changing, but 37 per cent had poor or no understanding of their obligations.

Just over half of respondents feel they are “partly prepared” for the changes and close to a third feel they are not prepared.

Harmers Workplace Lawyers partner Shana Schreier-Joffe said business owners needed to familiarise themselves with the laws before they came into effect. Some changes will become law on July 1, while new Modern Awards that cover a large proportion of the Australian workforce will begin on January 1, 2010.

“Employers are very much in the dark over award modernisation, especially sectors that have traditionally not been subject to award coverage, which will now be covered by modern awards,” Ms Schreier-Joffe said.

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Adelaide Now, 31 Mar 2009
Something’s got to give on award ‘modernisation’
The Australian, 19 Mar 2009
Gillard’s pizza diplomacy on IR laws
The Australian, 13 Mar 2009 Employers needing to adapt to changes include those with staff working after-hours and on weekends. Ms Schreier-Joffe said sectors that traditionally used above-award contractual arrangements might no longer be able to do so and would face increased labour costs as a result.

“Modern Awards may also result in an increase in costs for employers, particularly in industries that employ a large number of casuals, such as retail and hospitality,” she said.

“For instance, many modern awards will provide for loadings for part-time employees, and the casual loading for a number of industries will be increased to 25 per cent.”

The Telstra survey found 48 per cent of company owners were concerned the changes would increase their business expenses.

Ms Schreier-Joffe said employers worried about rising wage costs should consider mechanisms to protect themselves from modern awards, such as a collective agreement.

“The traditional use of common law contracts which provide for above-award payments may no longer insulate employers from award obligations to pay penalty, overtime and loadings,” she said.

Increased union power was a concern for 42 per cent of business owners and 38 per cent were worried about changes to the unfair dismissal laws.,23636,25307308-5017672,00.html?from=public_rss

Could HR practitioners be making bad decisions as well?
07 April 2009 6:53am

No matter how bad the economy seems, it’s always a mistake to accept poor-quality clients, says business coach Ric Willmot.

Willmot, the CEO of Executive Wisdom Consulting Group, says some “really bad decisions” are being made in the corporate arena right now – particularly in the professional and personal services sectors.

The mistakes he has witnessed recently include:

reducing or discounting fees;

pressuring the staff left after redundancies to accept increased workloads;

adopting pricing tactics such as adding credit card service and administrative fees; and

sending reminder notices and payment demand letters – or making abrupt telephone calls chasing payment – within 14 days of an invoice being sent.

Businesses will continue to succeed if they can deliver their service to clients in a way that reaches their objectives, Willmot says. “Make the client significantly better because they have you.”

He says businesses should:

Rid themselves of non-quality clients. “I call them X-class clients; those clients who are low value to you and your business. They consume your corporate capacity. Capacity that will be much better served invested in A-class clients who do appreciate your value, and do good, regular business with you, and refer good people to you.”

Be prudent with the new clients they accept. “You do not have to accept every prospect who comes to your door. A poor prospect never makes a good client. It’s not about more business in this economy, it’s about better business. The litmus test: if the economy couldn’t get any better… would you still want them as a client?”

Understand the difference between revenue and profitability. “They are frequently confused.”

Avoid indiscriminate cost cutting. “Now is the time you should be increasing some expenditure, by investing in innovation, product and service development, human talent and retention of staff and customers.”

Re-tool. “This is a term from the days of Frederick Winslow Taylor referring to plant and machinery. I use the term specifically referring to people.”

Build relationships with their clients. “Strong relationships.”

In addition to the above, Willmot says, leaders should realise that procrastination poses a bigger threat to their success than the economic situation does.

To help build business, he says, managers should:
send letters not email if you really want your client to read your correspondence;

speak at business networking functions to expand your reach;

initiate some low-cost PR measures;

reach out laterally to your existing customers by providing additional products and services;

attend a seminar or training course;

write a press release for the local media; and

whether you are travelling across town or across the nation, leverage the trip and arrange to meet other people who haven’t bought from you yet.

Susie O’Brien

April 07, 2009 12:00am
BOSSES are using the global economic crisis as a smokescreen to slash Victorian jobs, pay and conditions, worker advocates claim.

Profitable companies with healthy bottom lines were aggressively lay off workers, moving jobs offshore, freezing wages and getting rid of individual workers.

Culprits ranged from big banks and public utilities cutting staff and offering redundancies, to unscrupulous smaller companies short-changing workers.

Most vulnerable were workers who had made complaints against employers for bullying or sexual harassment, women on maternity leave and carers who needed flexible hours.

Redundancy complaints to community workers’ legal centre JobWatch have increased 85 per cent in the first three months of this year.

In many the 500 calls made, workers said bosses were using the crisis to get rid of them, JobWatch executive director Zana Bytheway said.

“Employers are taking the opportunity to shed older people and those with parental responsibilities, among others,” she said. “Some employers are just creating unfair dismissals rather than genuine redundancies.”

Financial Sector Union spokesman Rod Masson said more than 9000 jobs had gone from highly profitable banks, insurance companies and finance companies in the past six months.

“While some finance companies have gone under and job losses have been inevitable, many profitable companies are using the economic downturn as an opportunity to cut costs through job shedding when it may not be necessary,” he said.

ACTU secretary Sharan Burrow said some employers were cutting staff and wages unfairly. “The general fear of losing jobs is creating an environment where workers are frustrated but copping it — particularly in areas like hospitality and retail,” she said.

The Victorian state secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, Steve Dargavel, said many manufacturing companies were under genuine pressure.

“Others are hypocritical and giving themselves big bonuses at the same time as sacking workers,” he said.

But employers are denying the claims.

Medibank Private has been accused by unions of unscrupulous shift changes and redundancy threats.

But a spokesman for the company said recent moves for some staff to move from full-time to part-time work was instead part of a “transformation strategy”.

The ANZ bank has also been widely criticised for mass redundancies and hiring staff overseas.

But the bank said all businesses were facing changes to adapt to the economic climate and despite the economic slowdown, the business was continuing to grow.

Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry workplace manager David Gregory said most businesses were reluctant to cut staff numbers and tried everything they could to hang on to workers until times improved.,21985,25300373-2862,00.html