STATE GOVERNMENTS have lined up to oppose Federal Government plans to introduce a national industrial relations system.
Industrial relations reform is a priority for the Federal Government when it assumes control of the Senate on 1 July, and Prime Minster John Howard has indicated that a national industrial relations system is at the top of its agenda.
The Federal Government would look to use its constitutional corporations power to create a national system of workplace relations, covering about 85 per cent of Australian workplaces.
However, the NSW Government has sought legal advice on whether it can challenge the Federal Government’s push to introduce a unified national industrial relations system on the grounds that such a move would be unconstitutional.
NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca said he was examining the legal foundations of some of the Federal Government’s suggested changes, along with his state colleagues and Attorneys-General.
“This is a campaign to take away rights that Australian workers have expected for well over 100 years,” he said.
The Federal Government’s plans would only introduce conflict to the NSW economy, which already had a strong and effective industrial relations system, Della Bosca said.
“This is the final attempt to destroy the Commonwealth industrial relations system as a fair and a neutral system to turn into a system which delivers for some abstract market.”
The Queensland Government also came out against the Federal Government’s plans, claiming a national industrial relations system would erode protection for employees in relation to unfair dismissals and minimum award wages.
“The Prime Minister’s plans for industrial relations reform have the potential to be the most significant attack on workers’ rights and conditions in our generation,” Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said.
“We are the engine room of Australia when it comes to jobs and we have only half of the strikes of the rest of Australia. Why does the Prime Minister want to wreck our system?”
While Victorian employees are largely covered by the Federal Government’s industrial relations system already, the Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) has also voiced opposition to proposed changes.
As 1.9 million Victorians rely on the federal system to set minimum standards, employees across the state were in a vulnerable position, according to outgoing VTHC secretary Leigh Hubbard.
Workers and their unions would not allow the Federal Government to “undermine the achievements of generations of Australians”, Hubbard said.
The VTHC is planning a public campaign and membership education program, combined with industrial and legislative strategies, in order to counter the Federal Government’s proposed changes.
Federal Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews is currently reviewing submissions on changes to the industrial relations system in preparation for a cabinet meeting later this month.