|Issue No 61||07 July 2000|
New Work for a New Millennium
View in full the ALP's Draft Industrial Relations Policy to be taken to the National Conference at the end of the month.
Labor's Industrial Relations System - contributing to income and employment security
39. Security of employment is fundamental to income stability and to all aspects of personal and family life. Therefore the industrial relations system should provide significant protection for the security of workers' employment and of their wages and working conditions.
40. Industrial relations arrangements should serve social as well as economic goals. There must be emphasis on both achieving fair outcomes for workers and contributing to efficient enterprises.
41. The industrial relations framework should encourage cooperation not confrontation. A well informed and skilled industrial relations community is essential in producing these best practice outcomes. Government has a key role in promoting and fostering these developments.
42. Labor recognises that our industrial relations system must take account of the inherently unequal power balance existing between individual workers and their employer. This principle has long been accepted in Australian society and by virtually all national governments prior to the Howard Government. .
43. The rights and entitlements of workers, particularly the most vulnerable such as young workers, workers with disabilities and workers from non-English speaking backgrounds need to be supported and protected as a consequence.
44. This inherent imbalance requires a collective approach within the industrial relations system in order to deliver fairness.
45. The legitimate role of trade unions and their rights to organise, to take action on behalf of their members and on behalf of workers generally, and to bargain collectively, should be enhanced, recognised, and defended.
46. A strong and independent commission is vital to the fair and proper functioning of our system. The independent industrial commission needs a greater role to be able to prevent and resolve industrial disputes and to act in the interests of fairness and in the national interest.
47. A system of comprehensive, contempory and relevant awards is central to the security of workers, their wages and working conditions.
48. Workers must be able to participate in and share the benefits of the success of the enterprise or industry for which they work and of the economy as a whole.
49. While a system of work place-based collective bargaining will be continued, alternative ways for workers to achieve decent increases in wages and conditions should be promoted, including through the award system and industry based arrangements.
50. Labor will require an open process of reviewing workplace agreements:
· to ensure they meet a reasonable 'no disadvantage' test;
· to consider the consequences of an agreement for those outside the particular agreement (for example, other workers, future workers, the unemployed); and
· to protect the interests of these groups.
51. Nationally recognised high quality vocational training and skill development opportunities should be available throughout the workforce.
52. Non-discrimination will continue to be a central tenet of Labor's industrial relations policy. This includes a continuing commitment to equal remuneration for women, not just equal pay.
53. Labor will ensure that Australia's domestic industrial relations arrangements are consistent with its international obligations. Labor will restore Australia to a position of international leadership and pride.
54. Labor will:
· actively participate in and promote the development of international labour standards;
· assist countries in our region and beyond to meet those standards;
· promote free and democratic organisations to represent employees and employers; and
· actively support community campaigns to educate and mobilise the public concerning issues of child labour and forced labour.
55. In addition to reinvigorating our ties with the ILO Labor will provide funding to the ILO Asian Regional Organisation to assist its program of training and technical assistance and help with the development of unions in the region.
56. Labor recognises the valuable role played by Australian People for Health, Education and Development Abroad (APHEDA) in providing development assistance and aid to help build vital services and provide practical training and support to trade unions in developing countries. A Labor government will provide funding to APHEDA to enable it to meet this important need.
Protecting employee entitlements
57. Protection of employee entitlements in circumstances of company insolvency is an increasingly important aspect of income security. Labor's legislation to protect employee entitlements will be national and ensure that:
· all entitlements of employees are protected;
· payments to employees are timely;
· additional cost burdens placed on employers are minimised;
· that employers are not required to make additional payments for benefits already protected by trusts or other appropriate means;
· small business is protected from any additional costs; and
· corporations law is amended to enable recovery of assets in circumstances where corporate restructuring has the effect of denying workers their entitlements..
58. To enhance security of employee entitlements, Labor will legislate to provide for more timely payment of employees' superannuation contributions.
59. Labor will ensure that the superannuation system provides:
· essential protection for employees and for the superannuation contributions made by them or on their behalf;
· effective choice, without undermining successful industry funds;
· representative and balanced trustee structures; and
· an independent appeal process.
60. Labor will facilitate schemes that provide portability of leave entitlements between employers where those entitlements would otherwise be lost to the employee.
Contributing to personal and family security
61. The changing lifetime employment pattern of men and women requires the industrial relations system to increasingly adapt itself to actively balance work and family responsibilities. In particular greater attention needs to be given to the growing casualisation of the workforce, home based work, and dependent contractors, and the increasing demands on Australians in balancing work with personal and family life
62. The method of engagement of workers should not be a vehicle for denying them access to the independent industrial commission nor the usual range of entitlements and rights. Nor should it be designed to undermine their income or conditions.
63. A change in ownership of a business or similar corporate restructure should not be used as a means of evading pre-existing wages and conditions.
64. Labor recognises that many workers want part time and casual work and that these forms of employment are integral to many industries. Whilst acknowledging that all workers have a right to full time secure employment, Labor also supports the rights of workers to have part time work that is regular and secure and to have casual work that attracts appropriate entitlements.
65. An efficient labour market comprising full time, part time and casual employment must be based on fairness to employees.
66. It is in the long term interests of workers, industry and the nation that the increasing reliance in some areas on casualisation of the workforce be reduced and priority given to the provision of secure, good quality employment with career prospects.
67. The inability to balance the increasing pressures of work and personal life can result in loss of productivity for firms, increases in stress and related problems for workers and their families, and a worsening of social problems. Good industrial relations have an important role to play in retaining well qualified and highly motivated workers.
68. Labor will hold an inquiry to examine the growth in contingent and insecure employment and its effects on workers and their families and to recommend measures which would promote greater employment stability for workers and better balance of work and family responsibilities. Labor will work with industry and unions to pursue effective and viable solutions to these important issues.
A Fair Industrial Relations System
The legal framework
69. Labor will introduce new industrial relations legislation to:
· put fairness back into the legislation;
· give a greater role to the independent industrial commission to act in the national interest and in the interest of fairness and equity;
· ensure that the powers and objects of the independent industrial commission are adequate to deal with any industrial matter;
· provide enhanced resources for the enforcement of awards and agreements;
· ensure that the independent industrial commission has the authority and resources to establish comprehensive and effective award coverage;
· change the emphasis from an approach based on sanctions to one based on conciliation and where necessary arbitration;
· reduce excessive legalism and prohibitive cost barriers to accessing rights; and
· abolish the office of the Employment Advocate.
70. Labor will abolish Australian Workplace agreements (AWAs), which are secretive, unreviewable and unfair.
71. Collective bargaining should be promoted through a fair and simple stream of workplace, enterprise and industry wide agreements, negotiated with trade unions or employees and consistent with International Labour Organisation (ILO) obligations and will:
· ensure a reasonable 'no disadvantage' test is met for agreements provided for under the Act, which includes relevant award or agreement rates of pay and conditions and protects worker's rights to representation of their choice;
· ensure the transparency of the agreement review and registration processes;
· provide that the independent industrial commission and affected parties are aware of and able to participate in the review of agreements provided for under the Act;
· prohibit discrimination against those who wish to bargain collectively and be represented by a union; and
· provide that workers and their representatives have access to appropriate information from which to make informed decisions.
72. The right of all workers to democratic collective representation by unions should be recognised and protection provided from discrimination against workers based on trade union membership or activity.
73. The development of representative organisations, which can meet common registration and accountability requirements, should be fostered, including by necessary training and education.
74. A reasonable right of entry should be allowed for union officials to workplaces for the purposes of communication, organisation, recruitment and assistance to workers.
75. The protection of the industrial relations system should be extended beyond a narrow definition of employees to include those in employment-type relationships.
76. Protection against unfair dismissal should be provided to all workers, irrespective of the size of their employer's business.
77. Public sector workers should have access to the full range of independent industrial commission powers to resolve industrial disputes and promote collective bargaining, and where appropriate, have access to paid rates awards. Labor will discontinue the use of individual contracts for members of the Australian Public Service below the Senior Executive Service level.
78. All industrial matters should be removed from the Trade Practices Act and be regulated by industrial law.
79. Comprehensive programs aimed at achieving compliance with the regulatory regime and proactive approaches aimed at securing protection of workers' rights and entitlements should be developed and implemented.
80. Compatibility of Commonwealth and State industrial relations systems should be sought.
81. Incomes policy should be directed to the following social and economic goals:
a. fair distribution of the benefits of economic success;
b. job creation and sustained low inflationary growth;
c. ensuring equal remuneration for women not just equal pay;
d. special attention to the interests of the most vulnerable such as the low paid, young workers, workers with disabilities and workers from non-English speaking backgrounds;
e. reasonable opportunities for workers to protect and enhance their living standards without working excessive hours or enduring excessive stress;
f. competitive Australian enterprises based on a well-paid, highly skilled, flexible and motivated workforce; and
g. the need to address the growing disparity between of incomes in Australia.
82. Labor will establish cooperative mechanisms with participation from the wider industrial relations community to consider current issues and future developments in industrial relations. These issues will also be examined in the context of broader industry, employment, education, and social issues. As part of these mechanisms Labor will support industry level forums to promote discussion and resolution of relevant industrial relations matters.
83. A new basis for a cooperative incomes policy should be established on the following:
· recognition that where workers express a clear preference for a particular type of industrial instrument to cover their wages and conditions, the parties in that matter should have an obligation to negotiate in good faith to successfully conclude such an instrument;
· recognition that collective bargaining should remain an important option for workers and employers;
· no worker should be required to enter into an enterprise bargain because the industrial relations system provides no other way to achieve decent wage increases or maintain reasonable working conditions;
· maintenance and enhancement of relevant award standards and wage rates in a manner consistent with overall social and economic objectives, through direct dialogue with unions and employers and through regular national wage cases conducted by the independent industrial commission; and
· recognition that a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to wage determination is neither desirable nor appropriate.
Promoting Safe workplaces
84. Whilst occupational health and safety remains primarily a State responsibility, the national government can and should do more to ensure appropriate standards are applied for Australian workers irrespective of where they work. The following principles should be applied:
· increased resources for research, standards setting, information and inspection at the national level, and by grants to State, local and industry/enterprise level where appropriate;
· uniform minimum standards of compensation and other rights for injured workers; and the encouragement of tripartite industry forums on occupational health and safety.
85. States should not be able to gain relative economic advantage by cutting the benefits available to injured workers.
86. A Labor government will work with the States to achieve a nationally consistent occupational health and safety framework which reflects best safety practice within Australia, and which is consistent with the best international standards. This framework should be clear and capable of enforcement at the workplace level.
87. The National government should, in consultation with State governments, develop and maintain a uniform national system of occupational health and safety statistics which detail the incidence of deaths and injury from exposure to hazards in the workplace.
88. The National government should encourage the States to provide comprehensive rehabilitation programs, and should itself provide such programs within its own areas of responsibilities.
89. Workers must be protected in relation to occupational health and safety with an emphasis on the prevention of disease, injury and accidents. Rehabilitation programs should be promoted. Compensation should enable injured workers to maintain living standards through an income related benefit until rehabilitation has been achieved or during the period when disability prevents a return to the workforce.
A fairer distribution of work
90. Labor recognises that there is a strong connection between deregulation of the labour market and increased inequality in the distribution of work and income.
91. Labor will encourage and promote incentives for implementation by national, state and local governments and private employers, in consultation with trade unions and employers, of voluntary schemes such as:
o career break schemes;
o early retirement schemes;
o balancing the emphasis on wages/hours/jobs to reflect agreed enterprise or industry priorities;
o recruitment to new positions based on shorter hours;
o job sharing; and
o productivity gains being taken in the form of shorter hours.
92. Labor will support working time arrangements only where they:
· are consistent with employee preferences;
· result in enhanced wages and conditions over time;
· result in reducing excessive overtime; and
· are designed to maximise employment creation.
93. Labor will develop incentives to encourage the employment of extra staff rather than excessive hours for those already in work, and to encourage preference for secure full-time and part-time employment over casual employment.
94. Labor will examine measures to reduce the pressure for increased amounts of unpaid overtime even amongst low paid workers.
95. Labor will consult and work with employers, unions and community organisations to remove obstacles to the employment of people with disabilities in fair and non-exploitative ways.
Promoting industrial democracy and cooperative workplaces
96. The following principles should be pursued:
· the right of workers to meaningful participation in decision making in the workplace about industrial matters;
· the right of workers and their representatives to be consulted before decisions that will have a significant effect on employment or work generally are implemented;
· the extension of industrial democracy and other modern forms of work organisation in major enterprises and workplaces;
· encouragement of employee share ownership programs; and
· assistance for the development of cooperatives.
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Politics: New Work for a New Millennium
View in full the ALP's Draft Industrial Relations Policy to be taken to the National Conference at the end of the month.
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History: Vince's Parable of the Sundial
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International: Room for Optimism from African Poll
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Environment: Mexican Wave Goes Green
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Satire: Aussies Celebrate Centenary by Leaving Country
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005