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Fair Work Bill said to be by and large a workable compromise

26 November, 2008

“The Fair Work Bill introduced into Parliament is by and large a workable compromise being the outcome of extensive and testing negotiations over many months. The Government had to strike a compromise between diametrically opposed positions which intensified the risks of making the wrong decisions,” Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Heather Ridout said.

“The Government has addressed many of Ai Group’s concerns and has put in place important protections for employers.  However, key issues of contention remain including the expansion of union rights of entry and the broadening of the transfer of employment provisions.

“We will raise these and other issues during the Senate Committee process and directly with the Government, Opposition and other Senators.  As well, the law will need to be tested and settled.  It will be critical that the Government remains open to future amendments which may be necessary to enhance its operability.

“Unions will need to be responsible in their use of the new laws or risk causing economic damage at the worst time for Australia when pressures on business and on employment are intense.

“Since we raised serious concerns with Labor’s Forward with Fairness IR policy in April last year, and despite union opposition, Ai Group has succeeded in ensuring that:

- Old workplace agreements will continue indefinitely after expiry;
- Good faith bargaining will not require employers to make concessions or sign up to an agreement that they do not support;
- Important restrictions will remain on agreement content and bargaining claims;
- Strong laws will remain in place to prevent industrial action in pursuit of pattern bargaining;
- Industrial action will remain unlawful in pursuit of multi-employer agreements, including project agreements;
- The compulsory arbitration powers of Fair Work Australia will be very limited;
- More than 50 per cent of workers will need to vote in a secret ballot before industrial action can be taken;
- Parties will have immediate access to Courts for injunctions and damages where unlawful action is taken;
- Fair Work Australia will have the power to suspend industrial action if a dispute is causing significant harm to a third party and to order a cooling-off period;
- The investigatory and prosecutory functions of Fair Work Australia will be separated from its other functions and judicial functions will continue to be handled by the courts;
- The important provisions of the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act which outlaw union coercion of employers to employ particular persons or assign particular duties to workers, will now apply in all industries; and
- Hearings, appeal rights and various exemptions will remain part of the unfair dismissal system.

Ai Group appreciates the constructiveness of the dialogue which we had with the Deputy Prime Minister and her Department over recent months and would congratulate them on a well managed process,” Ridout said.

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