Secret plan for firefighters

June 15, 2007

A secret Howard Government plan to remove the current state based Industrial Relations Commissions from each of the States has been revealed in Federal Parliament. The plan was spelt out in a tender document issued by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) seeking costings, plans and modelling of the impact of the changes on Government.

The document was tabled in Parliament during ‘question time’ on Tuesday and the Government was taken to task for plotting to railroad teachers, nurses and firefighters into the Work Choices regime. The leaked document has caused serious embarrassment to the Howard Government after Unions NSW secretary John Robertson claimed the document as proof the Government was scheming to create a hostile take over of state labour courts. The Government has been unable to convince the ACTU that the document is anything other than direct proof that if the Howard Government is re-elected state public servants will be thrown to the wolves under Work Choices.

The ALP claims the Government will be using the money it dishes out to the states to coerce state Governments into handing over their Industrial Relations Commissions to the Work Choices jurisdiction as it has done with University funding and Healthcare funding. Under these funding arrangements universities and hospitals were denied funding unless they introduced individual contracts.

The May DEWR economic modelling tender document requires the successful consultant to, in part, “measure the economic benefits of building upon recent workplace relations reforms”, including the likely benefit of:
• the State Governments transferring their IR powers to the Commonwealth to create a truly national workplace relations system;
• a fall in award coverage from 19% to 10% as a result of increased take-up of agreement-making, plus an increase in AWA coverage from about 5% of all employees to 20%;
• a reduction in the percentage of agreements made through pattern bargaining from 31% in 2006 to 10%;
• the impact of lifting Australia’s labour force participation rate for 15 to 64-year-olds from about 76% to 78%; and
• the effect of those changes on the employment prospects of those groups with a marginal attachment to the labour market.

The Howard Government refused to lay out its plans for Labour Law prior to the last Federal election and workers throughout the country are now paying the price. This cannot be allowed to happen again and the Government has now been sprung trying to do just that.

Simon Flynn
State Secretary