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ACTU, not workplace bargaining, the real winner



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JOHN H O W A R D . M.P. M E M B E R FOR B E N N E L O N G

f NEWS RELEASE SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, EMPLOYMENT «t TRAINING IRET 013/92

ACTU, NOT WORKPLACE BARGAINING, THE REAL WINNER

The ACTU, not workplace bargaining, Is the real winner from the amendments to the certified agreements provisions of the Industrial Relations Act announced by Senator Cook last night.

Contrary to his claims, the changes proposed by the Minister to section 115 of the Industrial Relations Act will not usher in a new era of workplace bargaining in Australia.

In fact, they will add a further layer of regulation, namely the reserve power of the Minister, to an already over­ regulated rigid centralised system.

The reserve power proposal is a recipe for backdoor deals between the ACTU and the Government. It is easy to imagine the quiet phone call from Bill Kelty to Peter Cook instructing the Minister to oppose an agreement on a phoney public

interest ground simply because the ACTU does not like the agreement,

True workplace bargaining will only occur when individual employers and their employees have the unfettered right, subject only to prescribed minima in areas such as hourly rates of pay, to strike their own bargains without the mandatory intervention of trade unions, employer organisations, industrial tribunals, or indeed, ministers for

Industrial relations.

None of Senator Cook's proposals go within a country mile of this basic test of whether or not workplace bargaining has been achieved.

Under the Minister's proposals union involvement in each and every workplace agreement will remain compulsory whether the employees concerned want it or not.

The bargaining monopoly held by trade unions remains untouched.

Given that only 32 per cent of private sector employees in Australia belong to trade unions, such an approach illustrates yet again the Neanderthal attitude of the Labor Party to industrial relations reform.

The Labor Party is hopelessly addicted to pre-World War I beliefs about employer/employee relations.

Despite the claims of Senator Cook the coalition does not intend the destruction of trade unions.

It merely proposes to remove the unfair legal privileges unions enjoy under the present system.

We will give Australian employees the right to deal directly with their employers or through the agency of a union. It will be a matter for their choice.

The reserve power proposal of Senator Cook demonstrates his ideological bind.

On the one hand, he claims to have loosened the system by removing the public interest test from the Industrial Relations Commission. Yet on the other, he intends to exercise that power himself.

SYDNEY 13 March 1992