PIAA questions employment minister

A Printing Industries representative attending a Sydney Institute event last night grilled Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash on the performance of the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

Mary-Jo Fisher, director, Government Relations at PIAA made reference to a resignation letter written by former vice president of the FWC, Graeme Watson, which notes an understanding in the business community that the Fair Work Commission is ‘partisan, dysfunctional and divided’. Fisher then asked Cash to reconcile the statement with the government’s stance that the FWC is an independent umpire.

Cash’s response was that the Fair Work Commission is independent of government, and that she can not tell it what to do.

Watson’s letter also noted that outcomes of unfair dismissal cases have become unpredictable, while no clear and consistent guidance can be gleaned from decided cases. He says dismissals for theft, breach of safety rules, misconduct and breach of policies have been ruled as unfair.

In the print industry’s graphic arts award, a clause which details that a worker may be fired if they do not turn up for three days in a row, and fail to give reason why within 14 days, has been ruled as unfair, while two other awards used by the industry have had similar clauses ruled unfair.

Political will for pro-business changes are almost non-existent in the workplace relations sector, as the Coalition Government is still dealing with the spectre of WorkChoices, which was relentlessly campaigned against by the Labor party, and union movement.

Fisher says workplace reform is further made difficult, by businesses fear of reprisals for adding their voice to the debate. Watson also points this out in his resignation letter, saying workplace relations is a “danger zone” for business.

She compared this to the labour movement, which is united, organised, and has no shortage of individuals ready to stand up and say ‘my rates will be cut,’ despite recent examples showing some speakers did not stand to lose any take home pay.

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