Key employer group the Australian Industry Group has stepped up its attack on the Rudd Government’s Fair Work bill, writing to independent senators Nick Xenophon and Steve Fielding to press them for amendments to the laws.
AIG chief executive Heather Ridout has told the senators that there are 60 provisions in the bill where the power of unions have been increased and “virtually none where employers have been given more rights”.
As the senators prepare for another round of meetings with Federal Workplace Minister Julia Gillard today, Ridout is pushing for changes in three main areas:
1. Limiting the rights of unions to access the personal records of non-members and access worksites for negotiations.
2. Changing provisions around the transfer of business to new owners. Under the Fair Work bill, existing pay and conditions must be retained when a business is sold; AIG argues this puts the new owners at a disadvantage when they try to improve the business.
3. Limiting the scope of wage arbitration for low-paid employees where workers are paid above-award wages. AIG also wants low-paid workers in small businesses excluded.
But as Ridout and other employer groups step up their campaign for change, so too are union leaders.
The Australian Service Union is also lobbying Fielding over his plan to increase the threshold under which a business is exempt from unfair dismissal from 15 staff under the Fair Work bill to 20 full-time equivalents (the threshold is 100 staff under WorkChoices legislation).
The ASU argues this change would “adversely impact 36% of the workforce and also expose workers in small businesses to potential exploitation”.
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