It's Tweedledum and not Tweedledumber - depaNews March 2007


NSW elections - but BIG differences on industrial relations

Tweedledum and Twiddledee from Alice in Wonderland nicely sum up the alternatives offered by the major parties tomorrow. Or Tweedlebland and Tweedleblander, or Tweedlebeige and Tweedlebeiger, perhaps.

Over the years we have printed side-by-side comparisons of Government and Opposition policies so that members know what the alternatives think about important things like local government and what should happen to it, what should happen to planning, and who thinks you should have an independent umpire in industrial relations and who thinks you shouldn't.

This time we won’t. But if you're struggling to work out who to vote for, and if you're looking for a single issue to make your mind up and that single issue is whether you'll be safe and secure or at work, then you have a clear choice.

Today's Sydney Morning Herald reported that the most important New South Wales election consideration was industrial relations. Described in the Herald as "a warning to the Howard Government … a Herald/ACNeilson poll of 1878 NSW voters conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday nights disputes the long-held assumption that state elections are decided on State issues alone."

The poll had found that Federal industrial relations laws were the issue of most concern in tomorrow's State election. 18% of those surveyed listed industrial relations as the most important issue, followed by health, which was cited by 15% of voters, followed by education with 14%.

Most councils are still treading water and wondering whether they are trading corporations (and therefore picked up by WorkChoices) or whether they can remain safely in the New South Wales industrial relations system that has worked so well for councils and employees.

Some councils are asserting that they are trading corporations and are looking forward to Federal Workchoices agreements and the potential horrors that could involve for everyone working at those councils.

We keep urging councils to sign referral agreement and keep their industrial relations safely under the control of the New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission. This is the system that manages industrial disputes in a way denied to the Federal Industrial Relations Commission by the anti-employee WorkChoices legislation. It's the system that allows us to file disputes about issues that can't be dealt with in a Federal system (like leaseback cars, for example) and that can't even be incorporated in Federal agreements.

And it's the New South Wales system that believes in those proper safety nets and protections that the Howard Government specifically wanted removed from the Federal system.

While it's true that we get our opportunity to vote on Federal issues later in the year (and some of us can't wait), the two major parties have made it clear that they have quite different attitudes to the New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission.

The NSW Government will keep the New South Wales system operating and we will retain our access to it. The New South Wales Opposition will shut it down and all those New South Wales employees currently protected by it and with access to it, will end up in Workchoices whether they like it or not.

If all you care about tomorrow is protection of your rights at work, then the choice is clear. It's Tweedledum and not Tweedledumber.

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