Future ALP politicians and current trade union officials are reportedly “furious” at former trade union officials and current ALP politicians for doing what pundits have expected: introducing “business-friendly” industrial relations laws. “Furious” trade union leaders are widely tipped to remain furious for some time, before becoming “angry”, “upset”, “bitter”, and then merely “resigned”.
The broad structure of the coal-powered fluorescent bulb on the hill was explained by Gillard in her speech to The National Press Club on Wednesday titled ‘Introducing Australia’s New Workplace Relations System’. Gillard also took this opportunity to burn her
bra black armband, declaring in her opening remarks that “The signature values of nations are often defined by the circumstances of their birth… And for us there’s one value above all others that we identify with as truly our own. It’s the value that emerged out of the circumstances of Federation, which coincided with the industrial turbulence of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. That value is fairness. Or as we like to put it: ‘the fair go’.”
Which is all rather odd, especially given that — as angry White men across the country know — one of the first Acts of Federal Parliament was the Immigration Restriction Act. This Act (together with the Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901) formed the legal cornerstone of the White Australia policy; the Conciliation and Arbitration Act — which in Labor Party mythology has ensured a ‘fair go’ for ‘working families’ for the bulk of the country’s history — was only assented to by Edward VII in 1904. Further, while 100 years ago the Gub’mint couldn’t get rid of the Pacific Islanders quick enough, they now wanna import them — albeit if only for a coupla years…
“SMALL business operators will be in a position to sack workers after giving them just one verbal warning and complying with a short check-list, under new business-friendly employment rules to be introduced by the Rudd Government” reckons Ben Schneiders. “The rules would allow small business to get on with running their operations, making a profit and giving people jobs, Ms Gillard said” (Union fury at Gillard’s IR changes, Ben Schneiders, The Age, September 18, 2008). A former
factory worker lawyer, Gillard is not only a partisan of the petit-bourgeoisie, she’s also — as Bill Heffernan helpfully pointed out — shamelessly childless.
Where does that leave working families Ms Gillard?
Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary (and former fan of Chairman Miaow) Brian Boyd attacked the unfair-dismissal rules and said workers in smaller enterprises deserved equal treatment, and were crying out for working class discipline. “Most workers in Australia are employed by small employers. We are talking about the majority of workers,” Mr Boyd said. “They deserve equal rights. And to be disciplined.”
An important feature of the new legislation will be tough rules on industrial action.
Our new laws will distinguish between good industrial action which may legitimately occur during the bargaining and bad industrial action taken outside of bargaining.
Good industrial action will be allowed in the course of bargaining, in accordance with strict rules, including a secret ballot of employees and three days’ notice of intention to take the action.
But bad industrial action will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
Even short unplanned stop work actions can have devastating effects on employers with time-critical processes. For this reason, employees who engage in “wild-cat” snap strikes or bans instead of following proper dispute resolution processes will face significant consequences.
Employees will face a mandatory minimum deduction of four hours’ pay for any incident of bad industrial action and it will be unlawful to pay or demand to be paid for this period.
In the case of good industrial action, our system will provide proportional, sensible and workable options for employers to respond.
Employers will not be permitted to pay strike pay, as is the case at present. If an employee stops work and the action is good, their pay must be deducted, but only for the actual period of time the employee stopped work, not for any mandatory minimum period – as under Work Choices. It will still be unlawful to claim or pay strike pay.
But in the case of partial work bans, employers will be able to use their discretion to either: tolerate the bans; stand down or lock out employees; or issue a ‘partial work notice’ and make deductions proportional to any work not performed. Fair Work Australia will be able to review whether the amount deducted is proportional if required.
As the ultimate response to industrial action, employers will be able to lock out employees. But offensive, pre-emptive lockouts – taken by the employer when employees haven’t taken any industrial action – will no longer be permitted.
Labor said in Forward with Fairness that we’d return the emphasis to enterprise-level collective bargaining whilst keeping clear, tough rules for industrial action; and we have…