Unions welcome State Labor's IR reforms to repair LNP damage

Unions have welcomed Government commitments to reform Queensland’s industrial relations system after the Newman LNP took the wrecking ball to workplace rights for three years.

Queensland Council of Unions President John Battams said yesterday’s announcement by Industrial Relations Minister Curtis Pitt showed the new government valued the work of public servants, local government workers, nurses, teachers, emergency services workers and indeed ­everyone providing public services to Queenslanders.

“In addition, all Queensland workers would benefit from the reinstatement of workers’ compensation and health and safety protections,” he said.

“For almost three years the Newman government attacked and devalued the working rights of Queenslanders.

“Now we have some positive action to restore fairness to Queensland workplaces.”

Unions will be part of an Industrial Relations Reference Group including academic experts  and government representatives to review of the State’s industrial relations laws – the first review in almost 20 years.

Recommendations will be taken to the Government for legislative reform for introduction in the first half of 2016.

In the lead-up to International Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April, Mr Battams welcomed return of immediate right of entry provisions for WHS permit holders where there are suspected safety concerns.

“The reality in many workplaces is that sometimes there are life-threatening risks that must be dealt with immediately to save the lives of workers, customers, workers in neighbouring premises and rescue personnel.

“Leaving safety issues for 24 hours puts everyone in that workplace at risk, and this government recognises that is unacceptable,” Mr Battams said.

Other significant commitments announced yesterday include:

  • Restoring the independence of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission,
  • Re-establishing the Electrical Safety Commission,
  • Protections against wholesale contracting out of essential government services, regardless of public interest,
  • Reinstating employment security for public servants so that they can work without fear of being sacked if they do not toe the government line,
  • Returning the Labor Day public holiday to May from 2016.

Labor’s changes will provide balance to enterprise bargaining negotiations, Mr Battams said, which had been disrupted in the Newman government rush to rule with an iron fist.

He also backed Mr Pitt’s plan to suspend the Award Modernisation process.

“The Newman government laws could have been used to remove conditions that had been part of earlier enterprise bargaining agreements, such as annual leave.”

“All these commitments are in line with the promises that Labor made to the people of Queensland before the election,” he said.

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