Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Interview: League of Nations
Industrial: 20/20 Hindsight
Organising: On The Buses
Unions: National Focus
History: The Banner Room
International: The Slaughter Continues
Legal: A Legal Case For War?
Culture: Singing For The People
Review: The Hours
Poetry: I Wanna Bomb Saddam
Satire: Diuretic Makes Warne's Excuses Look Thin
The Locker Room
Re-considering The Accord
Strangers in the House
Nursing Home Concerns
Hands Off, Tony
Let's not be fooled about Tony Abbott's motives.
The Federal Workplace Relations Minister's proposal to amend unfair dismissal laws is merely the Howard Government's latest attempt to wipe out the state based industrial relations systems.
There's no lofty ideal or weighty thought behind it. It's not efficient, it's not simple and it won't be cheap for business.
It's about politics, a grab for power and sending a message to Liberal MPs.
When Mr Abbott's Department made a submission to the Building Industry Royal Commission last year, it inadvertently provided a great advertisement for the NSW system.
That federal submission noted that the poor industrial relations climate in Melbourne meant that a project in Sydney was 20 to 30 per cent cheaper to build than the same structure in Sydney.
Of course, the industrial relations system in Victoria is exclusively the federal system that Mr Abbott would like to impose on New South Wales.
Thanks, but we don't want it.
We have just completed a five-year review of the NSW Industrial Relations Act. In the submissions sent by a wide range of players, no-one suggested we wind it up. Not even the NSW Liberals (although, that's a poor gauge).
The Howard Government's latest tack is via changes to unfair dismissals.
The owner of an incorporated small business in NSW with, say, five employees currently enjoys a common rule award system which provides certainty for the employer and a safety net for workers. The business is covered by our discrimination, leave, occupational health and safety and workers compensation laws.
Under Mr Abbott's proposal, that business owner would continue to be covered by the NSW award system and our other employment related laws. However, the lone matter of unfair dismissal would be covered by federal law. For such a business, industrial relations will become more expensive and more complex.
The choice for this employer will be to straddle the two systems or to join the federal system completely. But joining the federal system means two cost-laden options - negotiating their own award or joining an employer association to become a party to an existing award. Further, since federal awards are restricted to 20 allowable matters, the employer would have to bargain for a certified agreement with their employees and/or union to cover the rest of their conditions.
Tony Abbott knows that the Federal Government cannot achieve a unitary industrial relations system under the current distribution of constitutional powers.
Use of the existing Commonwealth powers would only lead to federal coverage for, at Mr Abbott's suggestion, 85 percent of employees. Even if this figure was accurate, what is supposed to happen to the other 15 percent?
Mr Abbott wants the states to refer their unfair dismissal laws to the federal parliament. But his plans would create a discriminatory regime by denying employees of small business the same protection as other employees, create further confusion over coverage of unfair dismissal laws, increase costs to business, and deny parties access to the fair and efficient NSW industrial relations system.
This poorly thought out bill also creates a separate framework in which employees of small businesses have double the probation period, half the compensation and fewer unfair dismissal rights compared to other workers.
Clearly this is not in the interests of employees of small business, while employers will find it more difficult to attract high quality staff.
It's no fluke that the NSW Act has coincided with a period of industrial harmony and economic growth. Compare the conflict and aggression in other jurisdictions with the co-operation that is a feature of the NSW industrial relations climate.
We do have disputes, but unions and employers respect our system because they know it is balanced.
Everyone gets a fair go from a strong, independent umpire.
The NSW system delivered the Olympics on time and on budget with almost no industrial disputation. It creates jobs and ensures high levels of productivity while protecting vulnerable workers from exploitation.
Mr Abbott's vision of industrial relations is discriminatory, confusing and costly.
That's because at its heart, it's driven by ideology and political ambition, rather than a desire to produce a fair and productive system for workers and employers. NSW already has that, as Tony's Department has probably told him.
John Della Bosca is the NSW Industrial Relations Minister
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