Labor’s IR reform process begins

The Federal Cabinet yesterday approved proposed laws to implement the first elements of Labor’s industrial relations reform agenda.

The industrial relations transition bill – likely to be considered by Federal Parliament when it first sits in February 2008 – will abolish AWAs and implement new transitional individual agreements to replace them, complete with their own no-disadvantage test.

The only surprise in the announcement was Labor’s decision to provide draft employment standards – a list of 10 basic employment conditions applying to all workers that will replace the current Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard – for consultation with business.

The move is likely to help the business community to understand and adapt to the new standards, according to CCI Victoria Legal principal Peter Vitale.

“We saw with WorkChoices and the fairness test amendments, especially the retrospective aspect of it, they created an enormous amount of difficulty for business, so I suspect this is part of the new Government’s continued campaign to assuage concerns the business community might have,” Vitale says.

Although the details of Labor’s proposed new no-disadvantage test for its two-year transitional individual agreements are yet to be released, Vitale believes it is unlikely to differ significantly from the fairness test.

“We can probably expect a return closer to the pre-WorkChoices test. There are some subtle differences between it and the fairness test, but it won’t make a substantial difference in practice,” Vitale says.

The Government will be taking submissions on its new employment standards until April 2008 and finalised in June.

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