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  Issue No 43 Official Organ of LaborNet 24 February 2000  




Trades Hall

Neale Towart's Labour Review

The latest issue of our regular resource on the latest trends in industrial relations.

Beyond the Fragments

Career WorkKeys (CWK) is a community based labour hire company based on the central coast of NSW. Its key objectives are:

· To enhance the quality and value of part-time and casual workers

· To improve employment security in this form of work

· To develop the skills of part-time and casual workers

Analysis of CWK is an important way of understanding how the "non-standard" segment of the workforce (large and growing) might operate in a less dead end, less exploitative manner than is usually the case. Using casual labour has become a key means by which many employers seek to evade established standards. The CWK experience shows another way of being flexible with potential benefits for employers, workers and the community.

(Beyond the Fragments: the experiences of a community based labour hire firm in achieving flexibility with fairness for low paid casual workers. Prepared by ACIRRT for the Dusseldorp Skills Forum, 1999)

Prenatal Leave

The Finance Sector Union (FSU) and the Victorian WorkCover Authority have negotiated prenatal leave for pregnant employees and their partners. In addition to annual and sick leave, pregnant women can take up to 35 hours prenatal leave to attend doctors appointments and their partners can take up to 7.6 hours. Helen Lewis from the FSU said that the leave recognises that pregnancy is not an illness and therefore employees should not be forced to use their sick leave or annual leave to attend medical appointments.

(Work Alert; January 2000)

No Lifting in Retirement Home

Courtlands Retirement Village introduced a no lifting policy in an effort to provide a safer work environment. Before moving to new premises, management examined manual handling of residents because of the impact on staff health and safety. A risk management system was introduced to identify, assess and control risks before injuries occurred. Staff involvement at

all stages was crucial in the success of the programme.

(Workcover News; no. 41, summer 1999)

Outworker Exploitation

The NSW Government has released Behind the Label, a strategy to assist home-based workers in the clothing industry.

The strategy includes:

· The registration of retailers selling clothes produced in NSW

· Accreditation of manufacturers to ensure outworkers receive their legal entitlements

· Outworkers' agency to monitor the industry

· Penalties for non-compliance

· Education campaign to encourage consumers to reward ethical companies.

Copies of the strategy are available from

"Shafted": labour productivity and Australian coal mining

Michael Barry and Peter Waring

An assessment of the recent reports by the Productivity Commission and the National Institute of Labour Studies (NILS) into productivity in the Australian coal industry. These reports have been used by the Howard government and coal mining companies to attack unions and working conditions in the industry.

Barry and Waring conclude that the reports "make biased recommendations about the need to improve labour productivity by not adequately considering the contribution of non-labour variables to productivity performance and by failing to consider how further improvements might assist an industry already showing massive over-capacity. The last decade has seen great increases in productive performance at the same time as declining prices. Focussing industry debate on labour productivity fails completely to address wider industry problems.

(Journal of Australian Political Economy; no. 44, December 1999)

The Meaning of Deregulation byTim Anderson

The Australian experience of "deregulation" has shown that this complicated process is unlikely to lead to less government "intervention, that benefits to consumers will be limited if not totally illusory, and that citizens legal rights will be diminished. Deregulation really means market re-regulation to guarantee markets and profits to corporation, and social re-regulation to restrict the meaning of citizenship, where this conflicts with corporate goals.

(Journal of Australian Political Economy; no. 44, December 1999)

Anti-Discrimination Act review

The NSW Law Reform Commission has released a review of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977. Major recommendations include:

· The inclusion of religious belief, political opinion and carer responsibilities as grounds of discrimination

· Imposing an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation in relation to disability, pregnancy, breastfeeding and carer responsibilities (only in grounds of employment)

· Repeal of some exceptions that currently apply to specific grounds in certain areas, such as those excluding small businesses and partnerships of fewer than five persons

· Limiting some exceptions that apply to private educational institutions.

All recommendations and a full copy of the report are available at the Law Reform Commission web site at

Hidden Costs of Workaholism

The trend to excessive working hours may well cost employers money. A recent study by researchers from Curtin University of Technology has found that the longer a person's working week, the higher the possibility of an accident or illness. "Many companies foster workaholics and actively seek out and reward them, even though legal action that established a causal relationship between the employer company's actions and employees 'stressed out' condition would result in damages claims.

(Occupational Health and Safety Bulletin; vol. 9, no. 186, 9 February 2000)

Unfair Contracts

In Behan v Bush Boake Allen Australia Ltd the full bench of the NSWIC has confirmed that employees in NSW who are excluded from unfair dismissal provisions of the Industrial Relations Act 1996 can still bring actions pursuant to unfair contracts provisions (s106).

Behan v Bush Boake Allen Australia Ltd (unreported, NSW IRC (FB, 17 December 1999, IRC 621 of 1999)

(Australian Industrial Law, newsletter 1/2000, January)

Payment in Lieu Must Include Super

The Federal Court has held that an employer who dismisses an employee and makes a payment in lieu of notice must include superannuation in the termination payment.

See Furey v Civil Service Association of WA (Inc), Fed Ct (Carr J), 29 October 1999, (2000) 47 AILR 4-196)

(Australian Industrial Law, newsletter 1/2000, January)

Casual employee definition

The Full Bench of the AIRC has considered the meaning of a "casual" employee under the Workplace Relations Act. When the matter first went to the Commission, Deputy President Duncan, following the decision of Moore J in Reed v Blue Line Cruises, held that an employee was not a casual, following ILO conventions, because the interpretation of casual as characterised by informality, uncertainty and irregularity did not apply. It was held that there was a reasonable expectation of continuous employment.

However the Full Bench decided that the Blue Line case did not apply, as that decision was made under the Industrial Relations Act 1988. It held that there was no need to follow the ILO convention in interpreting s170CC of the current legislation. Casual was therefore to be interpreted by reference to its ordinary and natural meaning in Australian law. The full bench did grant leave to appeal because of the wide implications of the decision to many matters brought to the AIRC.

Bluesuits Pty Ltd t/a Toongabbie Hotel v Graham, AIRC 3 November 1999, (2000) 47 AILR 4-182)

(Australian Industrial Law, newsletter 1/2000, January)


*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 43 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Parting Gestures
Outgoing ACTU president Jennie George looks back on her time at the helm and charts some challenges for young women in the union movement.
*  Unions: While We Were Sleeping
It’s been a long hot summer for Australian workers - from the showdown in the Pilbara to the victorious National Textile workers. We look at the stories Workers Online missed while we were in the banana chair.
*  Media: Freudian Slips
The coverage of Jennie George’s final days as ACTU President were a case study in the art of psycho-tabloid.
*  Legal: Cookies’ Fortune
The breakaway union led by a man personally backed by the Prime Minister has been refused registration in a ruling that raises questions over the whole enterprise.
*  Politics: True Deceivers
In his controversial new book, Andrew Scott argues that Labor's rhetoric has outstripped its achievements.
*  Review: Rebel With a Cause
A new Michael Moore has emerged at the frontline of subversive television. His technique? Combining organising with silly suits.
*  Satire: Victorian ALP shock: "Apparently We're in Power!"
A recent survey conducted by the Victorian State ALP has revealed that the party is in government.
*  International: Right Hand Drive
The rise of the extreme Right in Austria carries some important lessons for our own society.

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