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Dismal WA industrial relations system

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News Release Minister for Transport Hon. Laurie Brereton MP ❖ Minister for Industrial Relations

IR 18/95 15 August, 1995


The Court Government’s industrial relations system has failed dismally in achieving the spread of enterprise bargaining and instead is fostering industrial turmoil, Federal Industrial Relations Minister, Laurie Brereton, said today.

The Court Government has this year been embroiled in industrial battles with the police, the water authorities, nurses, teachers, Westrail staff, public servants and TAPE cleaners.

Mr Brereton said that to date, nearly 17,000 workers had chosen to leave the WA State industrial system and transfer to the protection o f the minimum standards guaranteed under the Federal award system

“WA has now joined Victoria to have the worst-performing industrial relations system. By the end o f June this year there were 551 enterprise agreements under WA State legislation covering 50,876 workers - only 14% o f workers covered under State awards,” Mr Brereton said.

“This compares with 5000 federal enterprise agreements covering almost 60% of workers under Federal awards.

“WA is the system that Opposition Leader, John Howard, holds up as his model. The one he proposes to emulate at a Federal level.”

In a speech to the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry and to the WA Liberal Party State Council at the end o f last month, Mr Howard left his listeners in no doubt as to his view o f the Court Government’s industrial relations laws:

We are going to provide at a national level the sort of flexibility that the Court Government has provided at a state level... ” 28 July 1995, Perth.

I would like to seek throughout Australia an industrial relations system that is largely similar to what the coalition Government has implemented in Western Australia.” 28 July 1995, Perth.

Mr Brereton said that workers in WA are now facing the “second wave” o f industrial laws to amend the present failed legislation and replace it with an even more Draconian code designed not only to exclude unions but to penalise them for existing.

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“The proposed second wave will interfere directly with the right o f workers to form and join unions, breaching internationally-accepted principles of freedom o f association,” the Minister said.

“These are vengeful and mean-spirited provisions which allow union officials to be fined when their members are on strike. Postal strike ballots would be a legal requirement, there would be no immunity from civil liability after ballots, and workers could face criminal sanctions even if they refuse to work for health and safety reasons.”

Mr Brereton said that the legislation had drawn concern from across WA including trade unions, employer groups, the local media and the State Government’s own backbench. It is hard to see just what M r Court and his Industrial Relations Minister, Graham Kierath, hope to achieve with this legislation.

“The Court Government’s dismal handling of industrial relations has also been reflected by Transport Minister Eric Charlton’s equally disgraceful handling o f the Stateships fiasco. The people of WA are yet to be told just how much the Stateships disaster will cost them,” Mr Brereton said.

“Now Mr Howard is saying how much he admires the Court and Kierath industrial relations system and how he will adopt it as the model for the Federal Coalition.

“Australian workers should be in no doubt as to what would be in store for them under John Howard. Just look at what is happening in WA. For in John H ow ard’s own words this is what he wants to see across the whole country.”

Media contact: Kate Hannon (02) 252 1033 or 0418 481158