Feb 08, 2021

Unions fight workplace law change

Unions fight workplace law change

Unions are stating their case against the Morrison Government’s proposed workplace law changes in a Senate inquiry in Townsville.

The CFMEU Mining Division’s submission to the IR Omnibus Bill Senate Inquiry argues that the Bill gives big mining and labour hire companies a free pass to exploit casual workers in roles that are in practice full-time. 

It says the Bill seeks to overturn important Federal Court wins for casual mineworkers that recognise the real, full-time nature of the hours and rosters they work. 

Mineworkers are concerned about the proposed new definition of casual and what the CFMEU says are weak and unenforceable casual conversion provisions.

The union says also the Bill will prevent third parties including unions from having a say over enterprise agreements in their industries. 

QCU general secretary Michael Clifford.

Queensland Council of Unions general secretary Michael Clifford said the planned changes would make it easier for employers to cut wages and reduce conditions for workers.

“These new laws will allow employers to cut wages and conditions to below the minimum award safety net, allow employers to turn permanent workers into casuals and strip away sick leave and holiday pay, as well as remove blue collar workers of their right to have a say on working conditions on big projects, creating a new class of worker with fewer rights than other workers,” he said.

The QCU, the peak union council representing more than 350,000 workers throughout the state, has lodged a public submission calling for the laws to be totally scrapped.

Bill addresses key concerns for employers – AMMA

Key mining employer group the AMMA has stated its support for the changes, saying they will encourage businesses to invest and create jobs in the post-COVID-19 economic environment.

Chief executive officer Steve Knott said key areas of the IR reform bill addressed longstanding concerns and priority reforms for mining, oil and gas, and service sector employers.

These included improvements to enterprise bargaining, greenfields agreements and certainty around casual employment.

The AMMA argues that the government has struck an appropriate balance with its proposals for casual employment.

Casual employees would have new rights to convert to permanency after 12 months with an employer, whilst businesses would be protected from ‘double dipping’ backpay claims, Mr Knott said.

“Collectively these measures will reduce employment-related red tape and risk for resources and energy employers, which have been the lifeblood of the national economy and labour market during an extraordinarily difficult year for all Australians,” he said in a recent media statement on the issue.

The CFMEU argues the Bill entrenches the ‘permanent-casual rort’ in mining.