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IR plan fails to please unions or business -

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ELEANOR HALL: Unions are voicing their unhappiness with the Government's unfair dismissal proposals
for small businesses.

Under the plan small business owners will be able to sack workers they've employed for under a
year, as long as they give them one warning.

But while unions are complaining about the process being not fair to employees, a major industry
group is warning that it will expose businesses to more unfair dismissal claims.

In Melbourne, Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: If negative feedback is a measure of balance, then the Federal Government may feel
like it's found the middle ground with its new workplace laws. They leave unions and industry
groups both something to complain about.

The head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Peter Anderson, acknowledges the
Government's balancing act.

PETER ANDERSON: The Government has acted in accordance with what it had said it would do. We do
recognise the Government has been trying to strike a reasonable balance.

SIMON LAUDER: So does the secretary of the ACTU, Jeff Lawrence.

JEFF LAWRENCE: It is a significant difference to WorkChoices. It's a quantifiable difference.

SIMON LAUDER: But the head of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, Brian Boyd, says the changes
announced by the Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard are at risk of being dubbed "WorkChoices
light".

He's particularly concerned for workers at small businesses who he says will still be too easy to
sack unfairly.

BRIAN BOYD: They don't deserve it and they didn't march down the streets for three or four years
against John Howard to accept that limited ability that's now on offer.

There's a big expectation out there amongst the workforce that John Howard's industrial relations
legacy had to be torn up and replaced with a fair system. That's what the expectation is.

What we want is the trade union movement to be able to say to its workforce and the wider community
that John Howard's legacy was defeated and removed.

SIMON LAUDER: The biggest difference for Labor's new rules and WorkChoices is the unfair dismissals
policy for small businesses. Businesses which employed 100 people or fewer were exempt under
WorkChoices.

Labor's new threshold is 15 employees. Workers will only be protected by unfair dismissal laws
after a year and then they can be sacked if they are warned to improve, and fail to.

Brian Boyd says that's not what Labor promised and it's not good enough.

BRIAN BOYD: Most workers in Australia work for employers that employ 15 or less, so if they're
going to have severe restrictions on the ability to test whether they were unfairly dismissed or
not, then that is also not what we expected when we campaigned leading up to the last federal
election.

SIMON LAUDER: The chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Peter
Anderson, is also not satisfied with the unfair dismissal laws for small businesses.

PETER ANDERSON: The 15 figure is not a complete exemption for small business and we would much
rather just see an exemption for small businesses at that, or around that level, rather than what
is proposed which is that those businesses are exposed to unfair dismissal claims after 12 months.

SIMON LAUDER: Collective bargaining is another area where the unions and business groups both
disagree with the Government's approach, but more so with each other.

Peter Anderson says the Government is putting too much emphasis on collective bargaining and that
has the potential to lead to more industrial action.

PETER ANDERSON: The Government is putting a lot of its eggs in the collective approach. We need to
make sure that the new rules set by Government have some flexibility built into them.

And we also need to make sure that the Government's proposals to take a strong line against
industrial action are retained because we have low industrial disputes in Australia and we don't
want to see these new rules provide opportunities for a re-activation of strike action.

SIMON LAUDER: Victorian union leader Brian Boyd argues the conditions on collective bargaining
claims are too restrictive for workers to be able to bargain properly.

BRIAN BOYD: They want to have a code that virtually goes line by line about how you go about having
industrial action to get a fair industrial agreement in the first place.

And I'm also talking about the right of union officials and union organisers going into organised
workplaces so they can win a decent collective bargain.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the head of the Victorian Trades Hall Council Brian Boyd speaking to Simon
Lauder.