||Issue No. 285||14 October 2005|
Howard’s Secret War
Interview: Under Fire
Politics: And the Winners Are ...
Economics: The Common Wealth
History: Walking for Justice
International: Deja Vu
Legal: The Rights Stuff
Review: That Cinderella Fella
Poetry: Is Howard Kidding?
The Locker Room
Hooray for Robots
Good Guy Done Bad
Thugs Are Go!
The tactics of sacking a workforce and shifting them out with balaclava-ed guards and dogs on chains would have been lawful under the proposed changes, legal experts have warned.
Under government proposals, an employer suspected of planning to dismiss workers in a situation like the 1998 waterfront dispute can sit silently while unions attempt the near-impossible task of proving discrimination.
The government intends turning current practise on its head when it comes to injunctions stopping employers from sacking people on the basis of union membership.
"The employers are the ones with all the information and the ones at the meetings," says Turner Freeman partner Steven Penning. "Because such decisions are made in a clandestine way, it is extremely hard for unions to find witnesses or documents to back them up."
Back in 1998, when Patrick Stevedores tried to use security men to keep unionised workers out and bring contract workers in, the law said bosses had to prove they weren't sacking wharfies just because they belonged to a union.
That law stopped Patricks' in its tracks because the company could not convince the court that this was not their plan. As such, the MUA was able to get a court order stopping the sackings.
"The importance of this requirement has been recognised by the High Court," says barrister David Chin. But in a couple of obscure sentences in the back of the Government's latest 60 page IR document, Howard has revealed his plan to make sure the bosses get their way in the future.
Under the planned IR changes, when someone comes to the court asking for a court order to stop workers from being sacked for being members of a union, the employer can sit back and say nothing while the person bringing the complaint has to prove it.
"It is very easy for an employer to say nothing the unions suspect ever happened," says Penning and Chin.
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