Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The IR Standoff

A very interesting thing happened this week when the Federal Government’s new industrial relations law became Law this week. If you have been living under a rock, the Cowra abattoir fired most of its workforce, only to offer them jobs back at a much lower rate. Howls of protest ensued. The ALP of course pointed to this as a prime example of the rampant nastiness to be unleashed under the new laws. The Liberal party, with a straight face, said that it had concerns about employers ‘jumping the gun’ and that it would take time for the ‘good’ parts of the legislation to shine through.

Now, the abattoir has agreed to withdraw those termination notices, after a wee visit from the Office of Workplace Services. It is hard not to agree with the ACTU when it asserts that the government intervened in this case so that people would not scrutinise too heavily the actual provisions of the legislation. Is it just me, or does the visit by the faceless bureaucracy sound to anybody else like a group of Lygon St toughs going around to threaten somebody with a kneecapping?? Sounds like it to me.

I can’t see how this wasn’t a purely political move. Send in the troops and let’s pretend this action is illegal. I don’t think it is illegal, sadly. I saw Stephen Smith interviewed and he challenged Mr. Andrews to point to the provisions in the Act which make the action taken in the first instance by the abattoir illegal. When pushed, he would not do so.

If anybody is swallowing the crap that Mr. Andrews is feeding them, good luck to you. Now, a person cannot be dismissed ‘unfairly’, however this does not apply where a termination is for “operational reasons”. Operational reasons are any economic, technological or structural reasons (s643(9) Workplace Relations Act) which, in effect, could mean bloody anything. Interestingly, I can’t find the ‘less than 100 persons’ exception, which allows employers with less than 100 employees to do, well, anything they want, if you believe the ALP.

The government won’t actually tell us why this action was illegal. Instead, it sent in the Perception Police and made sure that we all knew This Was Not On. Which we now all do, of course.

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