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National wage case

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Jo hn ,Howar d

NEWS RELEASE Member for BennelongShadow Minister for Industrial Relations & Manager of Opposition Business in the HouseIR 38/94NATIONAL WAGE CASEToday's decision by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission re-confirms the Coalition's consistent argument that the changes to the Industrial Relations Act by Laurie Brereton increased the importance of awards and made the sytem less flexible.The Commission is regulated by the Act which represents the political pay-off to the union movement. Today's across-the-board wage decision by the Commission, and the ACTU' s support, is therefore no surprise.The present industrial relations system is a 'hybrid' and for the most part, centralised. Where bargaining is addressed, it is heavily tied to awards and centralised processes.Even in a hybrid industrial relations system, though, increases in the safety net should be designed to promote enterprise bargaining. This general point is acknowledged by the Commission in its decision.The Coalition believes that the best way to encourage bargaining in the current flawed system is by allowing wage increases which are not linked to productivity to low income earners, that is, those on minimum rates awards.This was the decision by the Commission in the October 1993, and it was supported by the Opposition at the time.The extremely limited form of enterprise bargaining permitted by the labour movement at federal level needs every encouragement it can get.Across-the-board wage increases fundamentally conflict with the government's bargaining and flexibility rhetoric. They also drastically reduce the already restricted incentives to bargain.By limiting automatic wage increases to low income earners, there is greater incentive to increase productivity and thus deliver much higher increases in real wages.However, under the Brereton amendments to the Act, 'consistent' wages mean a return to inflexible centralised across-the-board wage rulings.COMMONWEALTH ,, lkit uAmENTARYLIBRARYCANBERRA,21/9/94