Jul 21, 2006

Drive workplace revolution forward, says chamber

Drive workplace revolution forward, says chamber

SMH

Nick O’Malley, Workplace Reporter

21 July 2006

A business group says a leaked document revealing it had asked the Government for more industrial relations changes is nothing more than a discussion paper.

"We are in constant dialogue with the Government," a spokesman for the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said of the talks on the recent legislation, held last week.

The document shows the chamber would like to see the Government scrap the 38-hour week for some workers, cut back annual leave for shift workers and give employers broader rights to stand down staff.

"That any organisation would seek to meet with government to discuss the implementation of such a major package of changes after an initial three months of operation is entirely unremarkable," it said in a statement.

The acting Workplace Relations Minister, Philip Ruddock, said the Government would not be adopting the changes.

"The Prime Minister has made it very clear that we’re not about to implement further changes to those arrangements which we’ve put in place," he said. "Obviously if there are matters of finetuning – questions of detail which emerge, and information can come from a variety of sources – we’d obviously address those questions. But in terms of substance we’re not about to address those issues in any different way."

The Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, said the document was evidence the Government intended to introduce even more changes. "John Howard is not finished with the Australian people yet," he said.

Yesterday Mr Beazley led the campaign against the recent legislation to the Newtown home of Elaine Gray, a marketing manager at Dialect Solutions, a payments technology company, who was sacked without notice five months into her maternity leave.

Ms Gray was visiting day-care centres when the firm’s human resources manager called to tell her she no longer had a job, and would receive no redundancy. She was told that because she was on leave she would receive no notice and would not have her holidays paid out.

"I kept saying, ‘You can’t do this – this is maternity leave. I have rights.’ "

The legislation removed protection against unfair dismissal but it is still illegal to sack women because they become pregnant.

Ms Gray said under the new system she could not afford to bring a case of unlawful termination. "I was told it could cost anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000. We have a mortgage. I have no job – we can’t afford that," she said.

In a release the Government said under the new laws it would contribute $4000 to anyone bringing such a case.

A spokeswoman for Dialect Solutions refused to comment.

Yesterday grandparents belonging to the transport and maritime unions handed Mr Beazley a petition to give to Mr Howard. It was part of a campaign against the laws called Grandparents Fighting for Grandchildren.