Thursday, May 26, 2005

Archival Rescue 42 ~ Aus "workplace reforms"

Andrews "waters down" watering down speech;

Workplace reforms set to be launched
May 26, 2005 - 8:59AM Sydney Morning Herald

The federal government's proposed industrial reforms were not about destroying the power of unions, Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said today.

Prime Minister John Howard will today announce details of the government's long awaited workplace reforms, which it will be able to pass after it takes control of the Senate in July.

The reforms are expected to include changes to the way in which minimum wages are set, a watering down of award employment conditions, limits to some of the industrial umpire's powers and an expansion of the exemption from unfair dismissal laws to businesses with up to 100 workers.

Before unveiling the package to the coalition party room, Mr Andrews told reporters that unions had nothing to fear from the package.

"You will see from this package that the place of the unions in Australia will continue to exist within this country," Mr Andrews told reporters.

"This is not a package about setting out to destroy unions or anything like that.

"What we are trying to do is to ensure that we get the flexibility in the system that will ensure that more Australians are able to get jobs and able to earn higher wages."

Mr Andrews said that while he would not go into detail until later today, there would be reform to unfair dismissal laws.

"We have been concerned about unfair dismissals," he said.

"Everywhere I go around Australia I am told stories of unmeritorious claims that cost thousands of dollars for small business.

"It's a running sore for small business in Australia and one which we have been concerned about for many years."

There would also be "evolutionary changes" to the industrial relations commission, he said.

A key section of the package would rely on the support of the premiers at next week's Council of Australian Governments meeting.

"We've said that our preference would be for the premiers of the states, other than Victoria who have already handed over their powers to the Commonwealth, (to) ... refer their powers as well," he said.

"But if the premiers won't do that then we believe that the current system is costly, it's confusing, it's complex and it is time for a national system and we will use the corporations power if the premiers are not prepared to act sensibly and refer their powers."

Asked whether he believed the reforms would be Mr Howard's crowning glory, he said: "I hope it's my crowning glory."



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