Labor backdown on agreements for short-term workers


Labor introduced last minute amendments to its transitional IR legislation yesterday that will broaden the range of workers eligible to go on to its new individual agreements.


Employer groups representing the resources and construction sectors had criticised the IR changes for preventing workers previously employed by a business being re-employed on Labor’s new Individual Transitional Employment Agreements.


That could be a big problem for employers that have traditionally hired employees on short-term contracts – for the life of a construction project, for example – and then rehired them when the next job came along.


But last night when Labor reintroduced the workplace relations amendment legislation into the House of Representatives following the conclusion of a Senate inquiry, it revealed 37 new amendments, one of which addresses the issue.


Under the amendment, a qualifying employer will be able to re-hire a former employee on an ITEA as long as there is no evidence the employee had been sacked in order to put them on to the individual agreements.


The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry was one the groups that argued for the amendment Labor has introduced. Scott Barklamb, ACCI’s acting director workplace relations, says the change does resolve the issue.


“It’s important the Government has made amendments and listened to feedback through the Senate committee process,” Barklamb says. “The next step now is to ensure the practicality and workability of arrangements for agreement making, and we will continue working with the Government on those issues.”


The amendments also extend some further protection to outworkers in the textile industry and tidy up a range of minor technical errors with the legislation.


The amendments were not opposed by the Coalition in the Senate – on the contrary, the Government and Opposition Senators last night found themselves in the unusual position of voting together to defeat an amendment proposed by the Australian Democrats to reintroduce Keating-era unfair dismissal laws.


The transitional IR legislation passed through the House of Representatives today and is on track to be passed into law before Parliament rests from tomorrow night for a month-long break in the lead up to the federal budget on 13 May.



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