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If Andrews wants fairness he should put it back into his own system.



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M E D I A R E L E A S E

Stephen Smith MP Shadow Minister for Industry, Infrastructure and Industrial Relations Member for Perth

40/06 19 May 2006

IF ANDREWS WANTS FAIRNESS HE SHOULD PUT IT BACK INTO HIS OWN SYSTEM

In a stunning show of hypocrisy, Kevin Andrews, Minister for Workplace Relations, has complained that the New South Wales State Industrial Relations Commission has no interest in considering“…fairness in the way minimum wages are set across Australia.”

Yet, under the Howard Government’s extreme industrial relations changes the Minister has stripped fairness away from the National Minimum Wage Case. (attached)

And the reason Kevin Andrews has removed fairness from the National Minimum Wage Case is because his changes are designed to reduce wages in real terms.

Whether State or Commonwealth, the Minister’s disdain for the independence of Industrial Relations Commissions is reflected by his attack upon the wages of the lowest paid in Australia.

Having removed the National Minimum Wage Case from the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC), Kevin Andrews has recently attempted to stop the State Minimum Wage Cases from proceeding.

But the NSW Industrial Relations Commission pulled no punches this week when criticising Kevin Andrews’ failure to provide any sufficient reason why the State Wage Case should not proceed.

In emphasising the independence of the Commission and its obligation to follow State legislation, the Commission also highlighted its previous conclusion that the removal of fairness from the National Minimum Wage Case was at direct odds with NSW obligations:

Fairness has been a centrally important notion in the federal and New South Wales systems of industrial regulation throughout their history.… But it is difficult to overlook the fact that, unlike the relevant former provisions in the Workplace Relations Act, the amendments in the Work Choices Act have no express reference to fixing safety net wages for the low paid according to either

the hitherto fundamentally important criterion of fairness or to the needs of the low paid. - NSWIRComm 67 - 14/2/06

In fact, Kevin Andrews’ removal of fairness from the National Minimum Wage Case is in direct conflict with the State legislative obligations of the Wage Cases for not only NSW but also, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. (attached)

If Kevin Andrews was concerned with fairness in the setting of the Minimum Wage, he would not have removed it from the independent umpire, the AIRC, and he would not have removed fairness from the National Minimum Wage Case through his extreme industrial relations changes.

In fact, if Kevin Andrews wants to re-introduce fairness into the National Minimum Wage Case, he can begin by telling the nearly 2 million Australian workers dependent on the Minimum Wage precisely when the Low Pay Commission is going to make a decision on the Minimum Wage.

Given it is nearly 12 months since the last National Minimum Wage Case, and with no indication from the Minister as to when the next Wage Case decision will be made, nearly 2 million Australian workers are effectively facing a wage freeze from the Howard Government.

See Attachments

Contact: Courtney Hoogen on 0414 364 651

Fairness removed from the National Minimum Wage Case

From the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (post WorkChoices changes)

Section 23 AFPC’s wage-setting parameters

The objective of the AFPC in performing its wage-setting function is to promote the economic prosperity of the people of Australia having regard to the following:

(a) the capacity for the unemployed and low paid to obtain and remain in employment;

(b) employment and competitiveness across the economy;

(c) providing a safety net for the low paid;

(d) providing minimum wages for junior employees, employees to whom training arrangements apply and employees with disabilities that ensure those employees are competitive in the labour market.

From the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (pre WorkChoices changes)

88B Performance of Commission’s functions under this Part

(1) The Commission must perform its functions under this Part in a way that furthers the objects of the Act and, in particular, the objects of this Part.

(1A) To the extent that the Commission is performing its functions under this Part in relation to matters arising under the Registration and Accountability of Organisations Schedule, the Commission must perform those functions in a way that furthers the objects of that Schedule.

(2) In performing its functions under this Part, the Commission must ensure that a safety net of fair minimum wages and conditions of employment is established and maintained, having regard to the following: (a) the need to provide fair minimum standards for employees in the

context of living standards generally prevailing in the Australian community; (b) economic factors, including levels of productivity and inflation, and the desirability of attaining a high level of employment; (c) when adjusting the safety net, the needs of the low paid.

(3) In performing its functions under this Part, the Commission must have regard to the following: (a) the need for any alterations to wage relativities between awards to be based on skill, responsibility and the conditions under which work

is performed;

(b) the need to support training arrangements through appropriate trainee wage provisions; (ba) the need, using a case-by-case approach, to protect the competitive position of young people in the labour market, to promote youth

employment, youth skills and community standards and to assist in reducing youth unemployment, through appropriate wage provisions, including, where appropriate, junior wage provisions; (c) the need to provide a supported wage system for people with

disabilities;

(d) the need to apply the principle of equal pay for work of equal value without discrimination based on sex; (e) the need to prevent and eliminate discrimination because of, or for reasons including, race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age,

physical or mental disability, marital status, family responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.

(4) For the purposes of paragraph (3)(e), junior wage provisions are not to be treated as constituting discrimination by reason of age.

(5) For the purposes of paragraph (3)(e), trainee wage arrangements are not to be treated as constituting discrimination by reason of age if: (a) they apply (whether directly or otherwise) the wage criteria set out in the award providing for the national training wage or wage criteria of

that kind; or

(b) they contain different rates of pay for adult and non-adult employees participating in an apprenticeship, cadetship, or other similar work-based training arrangement.

FAIRNESS AS A CRITERIA FOR STATE WAGE DETERMINATIONS

The Industrial Relations Commission in each State must consider what is fair for low paid workers when setting the minimum wage.

New South Wales - Industrial Relations Act 1996

The objects of the Act include to provide a framework for the conduct of industrial relations that is fair and just.

The Commission may make an award in accordance with this Act setting fair and reasonable conditions of employment for employees.

Queensland - Industrial Relations Act 1999

The commission’s functions include … establishing and maintaining a system of non-discriminatory awards that provide fair wages and employment conditions.

The principal objects include ‘ensuring wages and employment conditions provide fair standards in relation to living standards prevailing in the Community’.

When making awards - The commission may make, amend or repeal an award to provide, among other things, fair and just employment conditions.

The commission must ensure an award—provides fair standards for employees in the context of living standards generally prevailing in the community.

South Australia - Fair Work Act 1994

One Object of the Act is to establish and maintain an effective safety net of fair and enforceable conditions for the performance of work by employees (including fair wages).

The functions of the Commission include regulating industrial matters including all questions of what is right and fair in relation to an industrial matter having regard to the interests of the persons immediately concerned and of society as a whole.

Western Australia - Industrial Relations Act 1979

The Objects of the Act include to facilitate the efficient organisation and performance of work according to the needs of an industry and enterprises within it, balanced with fairness to the employees in the industry and enterprises and to provide a system of fair wages and conditions of employment.

Tasmania - Industrial Relations Act 1984

The purpose of Division 2A - Minimum Conditions of Employment for All employees, which includes the provision dealing with setting the minimum wage - is to establish a safety net of fair minimum conditions of employment.

SUMMARY OF STATE LEGISLATION FAIRNESS PROVISIONS

STATE LEGISLATION FAIRNESS PROVISIONS

1. New South Wales Industrial Relations Act 1996 Objects of the Act - 3(a) Making awards - 10

2. Queensland Industrial Relations Act 1999 Objects of the Act - 3(g) Commission’s functions - 273(1)(a) Making awards - 125(1) Award provisions - 126(f)

3. South Australia

Fair Work Act 1994 Objects of the Act - 3(fa)

Functions of Commission 7(3) and 4(1)(n)

4. Western Australia Industrial Relations Act 1979 Objects of the Act - 3(af) and (ca)

5. Tasmania Industrial Relations Act 1984 Purpose of Division 2A - 47AA