||Issue No. 318||03 August 2006|
Don't Bank on Costello's Oil Shocker
Interview: A Life And Death Matter
Unions: Fighting Back
Industrial: What Cowra Means
Environment: Scrambling for Energy Security
Politics: Page Turner
Economics: The State of Labour
International: Workers Blood For Oil
History: Liberty in Spain
Review: Go Roys, Make A Noise
The Locker Room
What Was He On About?
Belly On Balance
Bureaucrats Sit on Wages
A number of unions have complained the OEA is holding up collective agreements, sometimes for months, then delivering non-specific judgements that further delay settlements.
On the other hand, non-negotiated AWAs become effective on lodgement without any form of checking against minimum standards.
Affected unions are loathe to go public because they fear any comment will rebound on their chances of delivering for members through a system that has become secretive and bureaucratic.
Under WorkChoices, employers have to lodge collective agreements and they can be fined thousands of dollars if they agree to anything the federal government doesn't like.
It is a defence against including this "prohibited content" to get sign off from the OEA but, increasingly, the Office is playing Pontius Pilate on anything it suspects might help union organisation.
The OEA admitted to Senate Estimates that it was taking 60 days to turn around collective agreements.
"Increasingly, the OEA is making assessments about what it thinks a clause might mean rather than what it actually says," ACTU industrial officer, Michelle Bissett, said.
"They are saying clauses 'could' fall foul of WorkChoices rather than giving a direct answer.
"If the OEA says a clause could be prohibited there is an argument that the employer then has no legal defence.
"The federal government argued the IRC was interfering in negotiated agreements well this situation is much worse. It is a level of bureaucracy that can't be penetrated because the whole process is secretive."
Under the old system, the IRC published agreements but, under WorkChoices, they are kept secret.
There is concern the OEA could be litigating and re-litigating the same issues because, under Howard's law, nobody but the immediate parties can access what finally passes master.
Dozens of agreements, signed off on by bosses and workers, are awaiting a clean bill of health from the Advocate.
Bissett says the problem is exacerbated because workers have no control over the lodgement process and any question about prohibited content makes employers "understandably nervous".
While employers are fined if they lodge any clause that is not WorkChoices compliant, workers and their unions don't get off the hook.
They can be fined for asking for the inclusion of provisions such as union safety training paid time off for delegates, or limits on the use of AWAs or labour hire.
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