Election 2007, 1 day to go: Gillard talks on IR

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Labor deputy leader Julia Gillard put some meat on the bones of Labor’s IR policy yesterday, promising that casual workers will remain exempt from unfair dismissal laws under any future Labor IR regime.

The commitment will come as a particular relief to employers in the retail and hospitality sector, where the majority of staff are employed on a casual basis.

Restaurant and Catering Australia chief executive John Hart says while Labor’s commitment on casual workers is welcome, he is concerned that a Greens-controlled Senate may force them to change their position.

“The Greens are saying precisely the opposite to Labor on this, and I can’t see personally that Labor will have control of the Senate, so they may have no choice than to agree to some of these additional protections for casual workers,” Hart says.

Hart says any move to give unfair dismissal protection to casual employees, increase casual pay loadings or give them a right to convert to full-time employment after three months employment would “absolutely devastate” many hospitality businesses.

“We appreciate the undertaking Labor has made on casual employment and we absolutely urge them to stick to their guns on it,” Hart says.

But Gillard refused to provide details on several other aspects of industrial relations regulation that could be significant to SMEs in the newspaper interview yesterday.

Gillard says Labor will appoint a small business working group to help in the formulation of its promised fair dismissal code, but there was no information on who would sit on the working group or how they would be selected. She also refused to provide any additional information on what from the code might take.

And the question of how Labor will define an “employee” for the purpose of determining if a business meets the 15 employee threshold for claiming a 12 month exemption from unfair dismissal was also left unanswered.

“Labor understands that numbers of employees fluctuate and Labor will work with its business advisory group, and particularly a small business working group, so that who counts as an employee is clearly defined and easily understood,” Gillard’s spokeswoman said.

Labor also provided some further detail on its education policy yesterday, with education spokesman Stephen Smith promising to provide additional HECS places to universities to make up for any full-fee places lost under a Labor government. Labor has promised to phase out new full-fee degrees for undergraduate domestic students by 2009.

Rudd said that the “affordability challenge” had to end and his education revolution was only the beginning of a series of changes he had in mind.

And two new election-eve polls suggest a fair bit of uncertainty remains about who will be governing Australia on Monday. An ACNielsen poll published in Fairfax papers has Labor achieving 57% of the vote to the Coalition’s 43%, a result that would deliver it a crushing 45-seat victory tomorrow. News Ltd’s Galaxy poll, on the other hand, has Labor just ahead of the Coalition with 52% to 48% of the two-party preferred vote – a result would leave the parties neck and neck on election night.


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