Labor should ensure its proposed new workplace umpire ‘Fair Work Australia’ is truly independent and has real powers to ensure the rights of Australian employees in the workplace are respected and enforced ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said today.

Mr Combet said:

“The Howard Government’s IR laws have stripped the powers of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to independently settle disputes, review and set minimum wages and conditions for low paid workers and ensure fairness in the workplace.

More than four million Australian workers have lost their protection from unfair dismissal and the Government’s hand picked pay commission has allowed minimum wages for Australia’s lowest paid to fall behind the cost of living.

To ensure workers get a fairer go Labor’s new super agency ‘Fair Work Australia’ should be a truly independent umpire which understands the pressures on working families and ensures workers’ rights are respected and fairly balanced with the needs of employers.

Labor has announced that a new independent umpire ‘Fair Work Australia’ would:

  • Implement Labor’s new unfair dismissal protections and help to quickly resolve cases were workers have been treated unfairly.
  • Set minimum wages for the more than a million low paid workers who rely on award wages. Under the Howard Government’s IR laws the wages of 1.2 million low paid workers have dropped by 0.9% in real terms.
  • Assist employers and employees to make collective bargaining agreements by ensuring that all sides bargain in good faith, overseeing secret ballots and the taking of industrial action.
  • Be a one-stop shop that provides practical information, advice and assistance to workers and businesses both over the phone and via the internet.
  • Visit workplaces and have offices and shop fronts in major urban and regional centres.
  • Australia has been well served by the AIRC, but under the Howard Government it has been stripped of its powers to independently ensure fairness in the workplace.

    Labor’s proposal to establish an independent and easily accessible body to ensure a fairer go for employees in the workplace should be welcomed,” Mr Combet said.