EDITORIAL: WorkChoices officially dismantled

By: Chris Smith

Combine award modernisation and fatigue regulation and what kind of future do you see for the road transport industry in

Combine award modernisation and fatigue regulation and what kind of future do you see for the road transport industry in Australia?

The employment landscape in Australia could be in for a major overhaul as the Australian Government's Fair Work Bill 2008, introduced into the parliament this afternoon, and the new fatigue regulations, which have been introduced in the last few months, prepare to rock the industry.

The Fair Work Bill is an extensive re-write of Australian employment law and the industrial relations system with far-reaching implications for employers and the management of relationships and work practices in Australian workplaces according to the experts.

The former Howard Government's controversial WorkChoices legislation will be officially dismantled after new legislation was introduced to Federal Parliament by Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard.

Although some approaches can be welcomed, the Bill has a heavy emphasis on new employee and union rights, and new regulatory institutions to give effect to these rights and force compliance.

Gillard says the Fair Work Bill will create a fairer system for both workers and employers.

She claims no one side of the debate is going to get everything it wanted because the new workplace relations laws are fair and balanced.

"Our laws bring the workplace pendulum back to the middle, where it belongs and where Australians want it to be," she claims.

"The bill delivers a fair and comprehensive safety net of minimum employment conditions that cannot be stripped away - a system that has at its heart bargaining in good faith at the enterprise level as this is essential to maximise workplace cooperation and improve productivity and create rising national prosperity."

The legislation establishes Fair Work Australia which will facilitate and approve collective bargaining agreements, adjust minimum wages and deal with unfair dismissal claims and workplace disputes.

Associations have long told their members what the proposed Award Modernisation process will involve.

In some instances the modernisation process will seek national awards which override existing state awards. The problematic area will be to settle on national standards, spread of hours, penalty rates and basic conditions.

If we can’t decide on one fatigue model, how are we going to go with one national bus driver award?

Although it is too early to speculate on how the new laws will take, and which amendments will be implemented, watch this space as industry groups across the nation add their two cents into the debate.

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