A sign of what life could be like in the new New South Wales

We reported in April that prior to the election the Opposition gave undertakings that they would make no changes to the Industrial Relations Commission in their first term which would have a negative impact on those employees working under awards or enterprise agreements of the NSW Commission. We hoped that was right and, for a new government, were prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt.

But amendments sought to the Industrial Relations Act this week challenged this assurance.

The Industrial Relations Amendment (Public Sector Conditions of Employment) Bill 2011 attempts to remove the independent role of the Industrial Relations Commission that has underpinned the successful operation of the Commission for the last 100 years. The Bill will remove the independence of the Commission to the extent that the Government's own wages policy and philosophical commitments on issues like leave will be incorporated into the Industrial Relations Act and leave the Commission only with the power to adjudicate within those guidelines.

This would be a crushing blow to the historic independence of the Commission. The Bill does not specifically exclude local government at this stage although Minister for Finance Greg Pearce in his second reading speech on Tuesday said "clearly, this requirement will not apply to, for example, matters relating to local government employers and employees."

While an undertaking like this in the second reading speech is nice, some more clarity about the Bill would be preferred.

And while there may not be an immediate threat, we are clearly going to be affected when a Government gives undertakings to make no changes and then does something as dramatic as that to public sector employees.

Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon said that "the Government would have a blank cheque to determine workplace rights and conditions for its own employees" and that "the proposal represented the most radical change to workplace laws in more than a century and would see the commission banned from enforcing existing awards".

"This is an unprecedented assault on the rights of public sector workers to have their day in court to turn to determine their wages and conditions."

We agree and urge all members to sign UnionsNSW’s petition as a sign of your support.

Andrew Spooner
Great article - up to your usual high standards comrade.

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