Unions say Rudd Government’s IR changes must go further

The Australian Council of Trade Unions says the Rudd Government must go further with its changes to industrial relations legislation, and has accused Labor of breaking its pre-election commitment to dismantle the Howard government’s WorkChoices regime.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions says the Rudd Government must go further with its changes to industrial relations legislation, and has accused Labor of breaking its pre-election commitment to dismantle the Howard government’s WorkChoices regime.

The ACTU’s submission to the Senate inquiry into the Government’s Fair Work bill calls for more than 150 changes, including granting unions greater access to worksites and re-introducing pattern bargaining.

Perhaps most worrying from a small business point of view is the ACTU demand that the Government scrap the Fair Dismissal Code, which sets out how a small business can sack a worker without breaching unfair dismissal laws.

“We do not believe that the proposed code ensures that employees in small businesses are treated fairly. We submit that the code should be abolished.”

A key sticking point for the ACTU is the fact that the Rudd Government’s new regime breaks a pre-election promise by placing limits on the issues that can be bargained, including unfair dismissal conditions and union access issues.

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence says that unless changed, the legislation will prevent employers and employees negotiating changes to the qualifying period before employees are protected from unfair dismissal.

Under the bill, small businesses would be able to sack a worker within 12 months of employment and not face an unfair dismissal case, while larger businesses would have six months. The ACTU wants this period reduced to three months.

“The single most important factor in the election of the Rudd Government was its promise to get rid of WorkChoices,” Lawrence says. “Now is the crunch time for the Labor Party to fully deliver on this promise.”

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