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Coalition offers Fairer Work Bill amendments.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009 Printer Friendly Version

Source: Senator Nigel Scullion

Country Liberal Senator for the Northern Territory, Nigel Scullion said the Coalition’s amendments to the Fair Work Bill will give much needed protection to small businesses in the NT.

“Today the Coalition has put forward six very sensible, reasonable amendments to the bill that will ensure that unions respect workers rights to privacy and that dismissal laws do not impede the small business community”, said Senator Scullion.

The key areas of the Coalition amendments are:

1. Union access to non-union member records

All employees have a right to privacy and should have their records protected at work. The Bill weakens this right and allows unions to access these records.

Labor expressly promised that it would not change the existing right of entry laws.

We propose to hold Labor to its election promise and retain the existing law, which provides access only to union member records except where an employee gives consent or by order of the relevant tribunal.

2. Expanded union right of entry for discussion/recruitment purposes Unions should have access to a workplace where they have no members, but only with the agreement of employees in that enterprise.

Labor’s proposals are a recipe for endless demarcation and other disputes.

We propose to allow employees to decide democratically if they want a union representative to meet with them in the workplace, and which union that ought to be, before entry can occur. This would apply in a workplace where there is currently no union presence, or where a union (other than a union with members in that workplace) wants to enter.

3. Compulsory Arbitration where enterprise bargaining fails

The Bill allows Fair Work Australia to arbitrate where parties negotiating a collective agreement cannot reach agreement. Labor ruled out having compulsory arbitration in the legislation.

We propose that the ability to arbitrate if negotiations fail only be available where the parties genuinely consent to arbitration.

There is a comprehensive safety net system of awards which is designed to provide fair terms and conditions of employment in the absence of an alternative agreement.

4. Greenfield Agreements

The proposed bill is complex and opens the gate for unions to veto new projects. Labor’s changes are anti-investment and anti-jobs. It appears that Labor has recognised there are serious problems with these provisions, which were not referred to in their election policy, and is proposing some unspecified amendments.

We propose to remove the requirement for the maker of a greenfield agreement to notify unions.

5. Transmission of Business

Labor’s proposed changes regarding the transmission of business are also anti-jobs and have been the subject of considerable criticism.

Our view is that the existing law is vastly preferable to Labor’s proposal.

We note that Julia Gillard is flagging amendments to meet, so she says, the concerns business have expressed on this point. We will scrutinise those amendments carefully in the light of our overall objective to promote and preserve jobs.

6. Unfair Dismissal

Unfair dismissal laws are a discouragement for employers to hire new employees.

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In particular there is widespread concern that the definition of a small business of a headcount of 15 employees (who may be all part time or casuals working only a few hours a week) is too low and creates many anomalies - leaving out of the definition many small, indeed very small, businesses.

The Coalition will negotiate with the Independent Senators who have flagged their concerns to get the best outcome for small business people and jobs.


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