Mr Shorten, Please Explain…..

The Sydney Morning Herald has four questions for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten:

QUESTION: Were Winslow workers in 2005 (when the company paid for their dues) aware that they were AWU members?
QUESTION: What did Winslow get in return for paying the AWU?
QUESTION: Was it common practice for the AWU to have companies pay for the membership dues of workers when Mr Shorten was state secretary?
QUESTION: Is it appropriate for companies to pay the union dues of members?

and The Australian ten more:

1/ Can you guarantee that under your leadership of the AWU, the union did not take a cheque from an employer for union dues without signed application forms from workers, as you told the Cole Royal Commission in 2002, and that the workers knew they were being signed up and were happy for the employer to pay their dues?

2/ Can you guarantee that no worker was worse off as a result of your leadership of the AWU given:
(a) Former Cleanevent HR manager Michael Robinson has given sworn evidence the 2006 enterprise bargaining agreement was “extremely favourable to Cleanevent” (allowing its workers to be paid $18 an hour in some circumstances compared with $45 for competitors);
(b) Cesar Melhem has agreed this was a poor deal for workers; and
(c) the AWU’s admission to the Fair Work Commission yesterday that it was in workers’ interests for the 2006 EBA to be terminated?

3/ You signed off on the 2004 Cleanevent EBA which formed the basis of the 2006 EBA and in turn the controversial 2010 EBA. At the time of the 2004 EBA or at any time of your AWU tenure did Cleanevent make payments to the AWU for any purpose , including that of paying union fees for employees?

4/ Do you agree with current AWU secretary Ben Davis that deals where employers pay for union memberships weaken the union’s industrial position?

5/ Do you regret signing Cesar Melhem’s pre-selection form?

6/ Under your leadership were you aware of any instances of different
names or entries on invoices being given to payments by companies for AWU
memberships , for example cases where membership fees were labelled
“training” fees?

7/ Under your leadership were you aware of any instances of the practice whereby the AWU signed up members without their knowledge?

8/ Did the netballers who became AWU members as a result of the alliance with the
Australian Netball Players Association know they were being signed up and did
they pay individually or did the ANPA pay their dues?

9/ When the AWU first negotiated an arrangement with the Australian Jockeys Association when you were secretary, did any money change hands and, if so, what for?

10/ Did jockeys including Peter Mertens, Greg Childs, Steven King, Kerrin McEvoy agree to becoming AWU members or know they had been signed up?

MUA hit with record court order for bullying employer

The Australian reports:

The Maritime Union of Australia has been stung with a $560,000 court order after its officials bullied an employer to maintain a “closed shop” that barred non-unionised workers from employment.


Federal Court judge John Gilmour also ordered the employer, Skilled Offshore (Australia), to pay $241,000 to a Perth couple, Bruce and Lynne Love, over its role in blocking them from working in 2009.


Although the couple were willing to join the union, their membership applications were blocked by the MUA’s West Australian secretary, Chris Cain, the court found.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz said the “record payout” was a lesson to employers who “either willingly or through intimidation engage in this type of illegal behaviour in cahoots with a union”.

Justice Gilmour found the MUA’s “blatant use of illegitimate industrial action power” was designed to “bully” the company into rejecting the Loves.

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Media Release: Unemployment Up 0.4% since last January

MEDIA RELEASE: 8 February 2015
Unemployment Up 0.4% since last January

The unemployment rate of 6.4% (s adj) in January is 0.4 percentage point higher than it was in January 2014 as was the unadjusted figure of 6.8%. Moreover, the increase of employment of only 1.6% over the past year continues to fail to keep pace with the growth in the working age population of 1.8%.

Given the slower growth in the economy, which the Reserve Bank expects to slow further in the lead up to the election, it is clear that the regulatory arrangements  (wage awards and other regulations) are pushing unemployment higher.

These developments in the labour market emphasise the need for deregulation of workplace relations and the establishment of a much more flexible market.

Although the growth in wages is now no higher than inflation, Australia’s wages have been growing faster than in developed countries, resulting in reduced competitiveness. While the reduction in the exchange rate will help offset that, that is not the best way of improving competitiveness

Publicity Officer: Des Moore (9867 1235)

Review into Penalty Rates and the Minimum Wage

The WA News reports on some very positive developments:

Penalty rates, the minimum wage and the workplace flexibility of 11.5 million Australian workers will come under the microscope in a sweeping review of the industrial relations system.

In an interview to mark the launch of five issues papers that set out the key areas the inquiry will put under the microscope, Productivity Commission chief Peter Harris has promised the review of Australia’s workplace laws will “bust myths” in the broadest review of IR laws in a generation.

The long-awaited review of Australia’s workplace laws will examine the effect of the minimum wage on employment, how penalty rates are set and what economic effect the loadings have on business and employees.

The issues papers were accidentally published online on Thursday.

The review was meant to be published on the Commission’s website at midnight but went live on the homepage on Thursday morning and was seized on by at least two Labor MPs who tweeted a link to it and broke the embargo.

Enterprise bargaining, individual agreements between employers and employees, unfair dismissal, anti-bullying laws and public sector employment issues will all be examined too.


Employers step up efforts to get rid of penalty rates

The SMH has reported on recent efforts to amend Australia’s job-destroying penalty rates: 

Australian industry is mounting a concerted campaign to wind back and abolish weekend and public holiday penalty rates, particularly in the hospitality sector.

Employer submissions to the Fair Work Commission’s review of minimum wage conditions across the economy filed in the last weeks of the year reveal the hitlist for business groups, which argue they need greater flexibility and lower costs in the face of tough trading conditions.

The commission is reviewing more than 200 awards that provide minimum wage, hours and other conditions. As part of that exercise it is conducting a separate examination of penalty rates that will flow into a number of awards.

The push comes as the federal government has launched a review of industrial relations through the Productivity Commission.

A particular focus is hospitality. The Restaurant & Catering Association used its submission to argue that the late night loading, which gives workers an extra 10 to 15 per cent per hour, should be stripped from the award.

RCA chief executive John Hart said he would also be looking to capitalise on a recent win in another case to push for standardised penalty rates across Saturday and Sunday across the industry.

Read the rest here

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Letter to the Editor: Productivity Commission Review

Judith Sloan draws attention to the regrettable absence from the review of workplace relations by the Productivity Commission of any “specific reference to examining individual contracting and the restrictions that arise from the present framework”.  Indeed, the terms of reference are bereft of any overall indication of what the review’s framework objective might be and imply that all that might be needed is to adjust the existing Fair Work arrangements.

The HR Nicholls Society will certainly be submitting that in a modern society there is no intrinsic imbalance in bargaining power between employers and employees and that the regulation of workplace relations should be minimal. That is in the interests of both employers and employees and would establish a competitive framework which would increase employment.

It is regrettable that the terms of reference have been constructed without consultation with a body which has extensive experience in workplace relations.

Yours faithfully

Des Moore,
Publicity Officer,
HR Nicholls Society

Australian Tour of International Labour Market Expert Prof Bernd Fitzenberger

The HR Nicholls Society would like to warmly invite you to participate in the Australian Tour of Professor Bernd Fitzenberger of Freiburg University, one of the world’s leading labour market experts, on “Labour Relations for a Resilient Economy”.

Professor Fitzenberger will be speaking in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Perth on the German model for labour relations, and its contribution to German competitiveness and employment in the last decade.

The HR Nicholls Society presents this speaking tour as a contribution to the reform of Australia’s system of labour relations.

Professor Fitzenberger is Full Professor for Statistics and Econometrics at the Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg.  His areas of study include trends in wage inequality, trade unions and coverage and evaluation of labour market programs. He is co-editor of the Journal for Labour Market Research.

Professor Fitzenberger’s academic work contends that regional flexibility in labour markets was key to the German economy being able to weather the global financial crisis better than other economies in the European Union.

The society believes Professor Fitzenberger’s addresses will attract interest from government, industry and industrial relations practitioners. The society’s object is to bring new and practical perspectives to debate about Australia’s labour relations.

Professor Fitzenberger will be speaking as follows – and numbers are strictly limited, so please book now to secure your spot: Read more