MORE THAN 180,000 public servants in NSW will be protected from the Federal Government’s new industrial relations laws, according to NSW Premier Morris Iemma.
Under legislation recently introduced in the NSW parliament, public servants will become employees of the Crown, rather than of corporatised government agencies, in order to ensure they remain under the state IR system.
The legislation was “designed to protect their working conditions and protect their families from the unfair and unbalanced approach of WorkChoices”, Iemma said.
“It’s also designed to preserve the independence of having a state industrial relations body [that is] independent to be able to work at resolving industrial disputes.”
The new legislation will allow workers to continue using the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, which will have the power to rule on common law agreements between employers and workers.
Furthermore, to stop wage deals being frozen by changes as a result of WorkChoices, existing industrial awards will be converted to agreements.
The new laws would not apply to state-owned corporations because they are independent of government. Iemma said, however, he was considering measures to protect their staff.
Employer groups reacted angrily to the news, claiming the changes would only add to confusion surrounding the introduction of a national workplace relations system.
“These amendments will also widen the productivity gap between the private and public sectors,” said Minna Knight, Australian Business Limited/State Chamber senior workplace policy advisor. “Militant unionists will be delighted with these amendments and taxpayers will find they get even less value from the NSW public sector.”
“Broadening the capacity of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to hear common law agreements between employers and employees will only add to the cost and confusion.”
Knight said that for Australian businesses and their workers, consolidation of the state industrial relations systems into one federal system was vital for continued business growth and future economic security.
Craig Donaldson is Editor of Lawyers Weekly’s sister publication Human Resources.