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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 2174

Mr ROCHER —Does the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations endorse claims by building industry unions for a $20 per week so-called severance pay loading? Does the claim fit within the Government's wages guidelines? Was the Minister consulted by his opposite number, the Victorian Minister, when Mr Crabb drew up the heads of agreement which proposed the $20 loading, and did the Minister approve the proposed agreement on behalf of the Commonwealth?

Mr WILLIS —The claim of the building workers unions for $52 represents in part the application of the two-tier wages principle to their industry, as does the severance pay matter which the honourable member referred to. In regard to the parts of the claim which refer to the first and second tiers of the wages system, the Government has no overriding concern except, of course, to ensure that they fit within the principles, that they are endorsed by the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and in particular in respect to the second tier increases that there is adherence to the principles so that there is an adequate increase in work place productivity to justify the up to 4 per cent in the second tier.

The Government has considerable concerns about the severance pay issue. In two decisions-that in relation to the termination change and redundancy test case and that of the recent national wage case-the Commission has made it clear that it is uncertain about the application of the redundancy test case to the building industry. It said that that matter needs to be resolved in the future on its merits. The position of the Government on that issue, which has been made clear to the parties, is that we believe that it is a matter which ought to be taken to the Commission, that the application of any such redundancy severance pay issue in the building industry, particularly in the light of the follow-the-job loading which is already in the award, should be decided by the Commission, and that there should be no agreement which at this stage gives support to that until it is endorsed by the Commission.

The Government has made it clear to the parties that this is our position. It has also made that position known to the Victorian Government, in particular to the Minister for Labour in Victoria, Mr Crabb. The heads of agreement to which the honourable member refers which incorporate a possible agreement in Victoria were drawn up without consultation with us. I was subsequently informed of those heads of agreement. I have since advised Mr Crabb of the Government's position-that we believe this issue should be settled on a national basis with all elements of the claims accepted by the Commission, and not on any other basis.