SA bill to overhaul IR
By Melanie Sjoberg
ADELAIDE — The Industrial and Employees Relations Bill, being introduced into state parliament this month, is predicted to generate the biggest overhaul of the industrial relations system since 1972.
While the Liberal government claims the bill will rebuild the economy, create jobs, increase productivity and improve benefits to workers, the establishment media are being more truthful, with headlines such as "Showdown in the Workplace".
The bill will allow new enterprise bargaining agreements to be developed without the safety net of minimum award provisions and without the involvement of unions.
Preference to unionists, compulsory unionism and closed shops will be abolished. Secondary boycotts will become illegal.
The government has already eliminated automatic payroll deductions for membership dues of public sector unions; the bill extends that into the private sector.
The legislation will limit claims for unfair dismissal by imposing a 14-day time limit on claims. Compensation, where a claim is upheld, would also be reduced. Powers of the commission would be increased to dismiss so-called frivolous claims and to order costs against either party.
The United Trades and Labour Council has condemned the legislation and is threatening to mount a Supreme Court challenge to enterprise bargaining. The UTLC has not been identified in the bill, which would leave it without any opportunity to intervene before the Industrial Commission.
The government has also mounted an attack on Workcover provisions.
Mick Tumbers, state secretary of the Automotive, Metals, Food and Engineering Union, one of the largest in SA, has hit out angrily at the minister for industrial affairs, Graham Ingerson, for inflicting further attacks on injured workers with obscure legislative provisions.
"The effect of these amendments makes the object of the act primarily to protect the employers' financial base, at the expense of workers' entitlements, and forces the judiciary to abide by the same primary objective", Tumbers said.
Despite claims by the Liberals that there needs to be more flexibility in the labour market, a special report in the Advertiser on March 11 exposed the fact that hundreds of women in Adelaide are being exploited in the clothing industry through outwork.
Audits conducted by the Taxation Office and monitoring by the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union revealed that women are working up to 70 hours a week but being paid less than the award rate for a 40-hour week.