Showing posts with label unions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label unions. Show all posts

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Fair Work Commission shuts the door after COVID-19 has bolted


In April 2020 the Fair Work Commission was aware of a need and varied 99 modern awards to support the inclusion of "unpaid pandemic leave".

At the time it was also aware that there was a need to consider paid pandemic leave in respect of “health care workers” covered by a number of awards.

However, on 8 July the Fair Work Commission dithered and refused to vary identified “Health awards” to provide for paid pandemic leave.

This refusal came despite the strong suspicion that some private sector aged care workers in insecure employment were not declaring COVID-19 symptoms as they could not afford to stay home without suffering financial hardship and possible loss of ongoing employment.

The inevitable began to occur. COVID-19 infection numbers began to rise again in private sector aged care facilities in Victoria where there are now at least 440 active cases in 61 aged care facilities and the death toll for those in residential care stands at 47 elderly people.

In addition these 61 aged care facilities appear to be associated with another 78 COVID-19 cases.

Although Victoria has the highest death toll New South Wales is not far behind, with 29 elderly people in residential care dead since the start of the pandemic.

The national COVID-19 death toll in residential care stood at 78 on 29 July 2020 according to the Australian Government Dept. of Health. 

It was only on 27 July that the Fair Work Commission decided it was convinced there was a need for paid pandemic leave in the aged care sector*.

ABC News, 28 July 2020:

Aged care workers employed under three awards will be entitled to two weeks' paid leave if they are required to self-isolate due to having coronavirus symptoms or being a close contact of a confirmed case, following a ruling from the Fair Work Commission.

The amendments will come into effect from Wednesday, July 29, and last for three months.

Conditions attached to the paid leave include:
  • Workers must be aged 17 or older and be likely to have worked during the self-isolation period
  • Cannot be receiving any income — including other leave or JobKeeper — during their time in quarantine
  • If workers test positive to the virus they will be provided with workers compensation leave, which will supersede the pandemic leave
  • If the direction to self-isolate comes from a doctor, and not come the Government or employer, the worker must provide a medical certificate
  • The entitlement extends to casual employees "engaged on a regular and systemic basis" and the payment would be based on their average earnings over the past six weeks.....
In its ruling, the FWC stated "it cannot be assumed that the current outbreak will remain confined to Victoria".

"The recent events in that state demonstrate how rapidly circumstances can change," the full bench of the commission found.

"Recent developments in New South Wales are not encouraging. The award of the entitlement remains necessary notwithstanding that the current locus of the pandemic is in Victoria."…...

Key points:
  • The Fair Work Commission ruled the paid leave was necessary nationwide due to recent events demonstrating "how rapidly circumstances can change"
  • The ruling follows submissions from the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Health Services Union and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation calling for paid pandemic leave to apply for all staff in aged care across the country until the end of September
  • Only casual employees who can have been employed on a "regular and systemic basis" will be entitled to the paid leave
  • The commission's ruling grants paid pandemic leave to staff working in residential aged care under the Aged Care Award, the Nurses Award and the Health Professionals Award.
NOTE
* See Fair Work Commission, Decisions, Health Sector Awards—Pandemic Leave, (AM2020/13), 27 July 2020

Sunday, 19 April 2020

What Morrison Government's recent changes to industrial relations law may mean for workers


On Thurday 16 April 2020 Australian Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Liberal MP for Pearce Christian Porter announced changes to the Fair Work Regulations in relation to the negotiation of workplace agreements. 

According to Fair Work Australia the new regulations are "in place initially for 6 months" and are allegedly meant to assist businesses to remain solvent during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, workers are likely to be severely disadvantaged because any changes to working conditions or rates of pay made under these new rules are permanent and can only be altered during the next formal application to vary the enterprise agreement - which can be up to four years away.


Friday, 29 November 2019

Morrison Government's union busting 'Ensuring Integrity Bill' defeated in the Senate


Prime Minister Scott Morrison's pride and joy, the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019, intended to weaken and perhaps even destroy registered unions in Australia was negatived in Committee of the Whole by the Senate.

The vote was tied at 34-all, with One Nation's two senators along with Senator Jacqui Lambie voting with the Greens and Labor.

It took 147 days for political commonsense to prevail but on 28 November 2019 the Senate politely told the prime minister and his hard right cronies where to go.

Another bill Morrison is reportedly hoping to pass before the parliamentary Christmas break is the Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 2019 which removes provisions for asylum seeker detainee medical transfers to Australia from Manus Island and Nauru ('medevac').

BACKGROUND

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), media release, 26 November 2019:

In a blow to the Morrison Government’s arguments for the Ensuring Integrity Bill currently before the senate the Federal Court has ruled the union regulator, the Register Organisations Commission (ROC) investigation into the AWU was invalid. 

Justice Bromberg has ruled that the ROC did not have grounds to order an AFP raid on the offices of the AWU and has ordered the return of the documents that were seized on behalf of the regulator in their first act after being established by the Liberal Government in 2017. 

The decision comes as the Morrison Government attempts to pass the Ensuring Integrity Bill in the Senate which would give the ROC the extreme power to determine which unions are deregistered and which officials are disqualified under the dangerous and hypocritical new union-busting law. 

Under the EI Bill the ROC would have the power to begin deregistration proceedings against a union which had made a handful of paperwork mistakes over a period of 10 years. 

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil: 

“The Morrison government has been telling Senators that the ROC is an impartial body which can administer the extraordinary powers granted under EI. The Federal Court has just found it conducted an illegal raid on a union office. 

“Giving union busters more power to drag unions into courts over minor paperwork breaches, some that would only cost a company an $80 fine, Will cost members and the taxpayer millions in legal fees. This is before accounting for the cost of not being able to campaign for higher wages, better working conditions and safer workplaces. 

“To defend themselves from the ROC’s harrassment the AWU was forced to expending significant resources over two years to get justice. If the Ensuring Integrity Bill passes, all unions could face this harrassment over paperwork breaches. 

“Questions also need to be asked of the ROC who is continuing to waste tax payer’s money to challenge this finding. “This ruling gives the crossbench senators a stark example of how the Morrison government targets unions and will stop at nothing to try and bust unions. Ensuring Integrity will become another tool for union busters and should be rejected. 

“The Federal Court decision is a vindication for the AWU but also a warning for the Senate crossbench who weighing amendments which would give this discredited body even more power.”

BACKGROUND

On 20 October 2017, Mr Chris Enright, the Executive Director of the Registered Organisation Commission (ROC) and a delegate of the Commissioner decided to conduct an investigation.


Judgment in Australian Workers’ Union v Registered Organisations Commissioner (No 9) [2019] FCA 1671 was delivered on 11 October 2019. The judgment concluded that; "the decision to conduct an investigation as to whether ss 285(1), 286(1) and 287(1) of the RO Act had been contravened was affected by jurisdictional error and is invalid."

Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019 was introduced by the Morrison Coaltion Government in July 2019 and was currently before the Senate for the second reading debate when the ACTU penned the aforementioned media release.

*Images of ROC document come from the published Federal Court judgment.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 2019  is apparently scheduled for a second reading before 5 December 2019.

This bill removes provisions in Schedule 6 of the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Act 2019These provisions (commonly referred to as the medical transfer, or medevac, provisions) established a framework for the transfer of transitory persons from regional processing countries to Australia for the purpose of medical treatment or assessment. The Bill also amends the Migration Act to allow for the removal of people brought to Australia under the medical transfer provisions back to a regional processing country once they no longer need to be in Australia.

On 27 November 2019 a nonconforming petition was tabled in the Senate asking for medevac provisions to be saved. It contains 51,299 signatures.

On the same day Professor David Isaacs, Clinical Professor, Paediatrics & Child Health, Fellow, Royal Australasian College of Physicians was joined by doctors in Canberra urging senators to reject the medevac repeal bill. Professor Isaacs carried an open letter signed by 5,040 doctors urging Senator Jacqui Lambie to save medevac.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

FAIR GO 101: It's Time To Change The Rules



Monday, 12 March 2018

Employer groups put pressure on Turnbull Government to stifle union mergers


In 2017 members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) considered a proposal to amalgamate into one union or alternatively to amalgamate only the CFMEU and the MUA.

The ballot was conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) and results declared on 28 November 2017. There appears to have been no irregularities affecting the ballot outcome.

The Fair Work Commission handed down a decision giving effect to the CFMEU and MUA amalgamation on 27 March 2018.

Employer groups Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) and Master Builders Australia (MBA) are now appealing the Commission’s decision.

The Australian, 9 March 2018, p.2.

Employers have taken legal ­action to try to overturn the Fair Work Commission decision ­approving the merger of the construction and maritime unions.

The Australian Mines and Metals Association and Master Builders Australia yesterday ­appealed the decision to a ­commission full bench.

The employers are also seeking a stay of the decision, which, if granted, would mean the merger would not proceed from its scheduled date of March 27.

The AMMA and MBA say the commission decision contained errors of laws and should not have approved the amalgamation.

Maritime Union of Australia national secretary Paddy Crumlin said the unions would vigorously oppose the appeal and defend the rights of workers to have freedom of association.

“Our members have overwhelmingly supported this amalgamation (with the CFMEU) and it should be up to them to decide whether they merge,” he said.

Former employment minister Eric Abetz welcomed the ­appeal, saying the government should intervene in the proceedings in support of the employer application. He said the government should move urgently to pass laws subjecting union ­mergers to a public interest test.

Workplace Relations Minister Craig Laundy said the government would resume talks with Senate crossbenchers in a bid to win support for the bill, which has yet to be put to a vote.

AMMA is lobbying for an amendment to the bill designed to have the public interest test take affect before March 27 but Mr Laundy declined to express a view on the proposed amendment.

The Australian, 8 March 2018:

Employers have accused the Turnbull government of being missing in action after the Coalition failed to pass laws subjecting union mergers to a public interest test.

Workplace Relations Minister Craig Laundy said today the government would resume talks with Senate crossbenchers in a bid to win support for the bill, which has yet to be put to a Senate vote.

 “The Ensuring Integrity Bill remains a priority for the Government, but because of Labor’s opposition we need the support of the crossbench,’’ he said.

“Despite what has been said in recent days, the Government simply didn’t have the numbers to pass the Bill. I am reaching out to the crossbench to see if that has changed.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

ACTU claims that Turnbull Government's changes to the superannuation industry will make it easier for employers to steal workers' superannuation


Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), media release, 1 November 2017:

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has warned that the government’s changes to the superannuation industry will make it easier for employers to steal workers’ superannuation, in addition to giving the big banks access to workers’ super.

Independent research shows that $5.6 billion of super is unpaid every year, causing millions of Australians’ financial security to be placed in jeopardy. Jim Stanford - Director of  the Centre for Future Work, reported that wage suppression and unpaid super could result in workers being short-changed $100bn by the time they retire.

Unions are warning that this will increase with the government’s changes, as it will make it harder for unions to ensure employers are paying workers' super.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President, Ged Kearney:

“Ensuring workers super is paid to the default industry fund is a difficult job for workers and their unions. Too many employers are trying to get away with avoiding their obligations already. Opening this up to allow in the banks will make it harder to ensure workers are paid properly. 

“The government’s changes will mean that workers’ super payments will be accessible to the big banks, and that as a result, it will be harder to ensure employers are paying workers their super.

“By removing single fund provisions from bargaining arrangements, the government is attacking people’s chance of a dignified retirement, by making it harder for unions to ensure that workers are being paid what they're meant to be paid.

“When workplaces have a single fund, super funds work with employers to ensure they are paying their workers the right amount of super, and on time. If the government gets its way good employers will find it harder, and unscrupulous employers will abuse the confusion and steal workers’ retirement incomes.

“Every year, billions of dollars in super is not paid to working people. It puts their future financial security at risk. Unions spend a lot of time ensuring workers super is being paid. Increasing the amounts of funds will make this work more time and labour intensive.

“We are deeply troubled that the government would make changes to super which will not address the massive theft of workers’ super, but in fact make it worse.

“Instead, the government has decided to attack working people, open up their financial security to the scandal plagued big banks, and make it harder for unions to do their job standing up for working people.”

“We urge the parliament to block the government’s superannuation bills to ensure workers financial security is protected in better performing industry super.”

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Coalition senators cut and ran from their own Ensuring Integrity bill



Amends the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 to: include certain serious criminal offences as a new category of ‘prescribed offence’ for the purposes of the automatic disqualification regime in relation to registered organisations; establish an offence for a disqualified person to continue to act as an official or in a way that influences the affairs of an organisation; allow the Federal Court to prohibit officials from holding office in certain circumstances or if they are otherwise not a fit and proper person; allow the Federal Court to cancel the registration of an organisation on a range of grounds; allow applications to be made to the Federal Court for a range of other orders; expand the grounds on which the Federal Court may order remedial action to deal with governance issues in an organisation; expressly provide that the Federal Court may appoint an administrator to an organisation or part of an organisation as part of a remedial scheme; introduce a public interest test for amalgamations of registered organisations; and make minor and technical amendments.

The Australian Senate refused to support this bill on 17 October 2017 so the Turnbull Government read the bill a second time, had a short speech read into Hansard and immediately adjourned the debate.

The Senate next sits on 13 November 2017 and one suspects that attempts to swing the cross benchers towards supporting this bill has ratcheted up more than a few notches.

If you don’t agree with this almost constant attack on the existence of unions in Australia then your state senators can be contacted here.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

The perception that Turnbull & Co are conducting a political witch hunt is not going to go away anytime soon


Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, media release, 27 October 2017:

Timetable set for Federal Court action on unprecedented raids

A court timetable has been set in the AWU’s fight to challenge the validity of this week’s unprecedented police raids launched by the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) on the union’s Sydney and Melbourne offices.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, who are representing the AWU, said today that court orders confirming a timetable for the case had been agreed to by all parties, removing the need for a Federal Court directions hearing that had been scheduled for this morning in Melbourne.

Maurice Blackburn Principal Josh Bornstein said critically that the orders were made together with commitments from both the ROC and AFP that no documents seized in this week’s raids by the AFP will be handed over to the ROC until the court has heard the case.

Mr Bornstein said the union's case compromised two key parts, namely: 
That the raid conducted by the AFP was illegal; and
That the investigation by the ROC is illegal because it is politically motivated.

“Prior to these raids, the union had handed over disclosure statements from 10 years ago in relation to Get Up donations to the ROC, but in doing so had pressed the regulator to provide it with information about the political interference by the Turnbull government in this matter.

“Disturbingly, the ROC has refused to hand over all file notes of its communications with Minister Cash and her office and we  will continue to seek all such documents as part of the federal court case,” he said.

Under the agreed timetable evidence must be obtained from all parties next month, with the respondents required to file their defence by 1 December 2017. A substantive hearing will be held in December at a date to be set, following the filing of defences.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
BACKGROUND

In 2015 the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption considered matters relating to seven unions, one of which was the Australian Workers Union (AWU).

AWU activity during the years 2003-2010 were examined by the Royal Commission, including financial records which would have included donations by AWU to outside organisations/groups, including the $100k donation to the activist groupGetUp!

No evidence appears to have been presented during Commission hearings relating to GetUp! or to the 2006 AWU donation to this group and, there were no adverse findings made against Bill Shorten in the Commission's December 2015 Final Report.


As far as I’m aware a reporting unit such as the Australian Workers Union New South Wales Branch or Australian Workers Victorian Branch is only legally obliged to hold records for 7 years and it appears Ms. Cash was ignoring the fact that a) there was no obligation to supply her with this so-called evidence and b) these documents could have been lawfully disposed of anytime after 2013 if the union had so decided.

On 20 October 2017 in response to Senator Cash’s referral ROC began an investigation into the AWU.


Despite that fact ROC applied for search warrants for AWU branch offices in Sydney and Melbourne and these were issued before 10am on 24 October 2017.

The Australian Federal Police scheduled what it thought was an unpublicized search late on the afternoon of 24 October 2017.

Police were greeted outside the union offices by an assorted collection of mainstream print and television media who had been alerted to the time and place of the ‘raid’ by Senator Cash’s office.

An unknown number of union records were removed by the police.


Financial Review, excerpt from Media leaks about AFP AWU raids a disaster for Turnbull, Cash and government, 26 October 2017:

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Turnbull Government's Australian Building and Construction Commissioner resigns ahead of court sentancing contravening the Fair Work Act


It appears that the Abbott and Turnbull federal governments’ chosen anti-union attack dog has feet of clay…………………….
This is what the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) has to say about its agency head as late as 12 September 2017:
Nigel Hadgkiss, APM, became the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner on 2 December 2016 with the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).  Nigel has held a number of high-profile roles in both state and federal government agencies with a focus on both law enforcement and construction industry regulation, including:
Director Fair Work Building & Construction (FWBC);
Director, Construction Code Compliance, Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance;
Executive Director, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions NSW;
Deputy Commissioner, ABCC;
Director, Building Industry Taskforce;
National Director of Intelligence, Australian Crime Commission; and
Assistant Commissioner, Australian Federal Police
In 2007, while Deputy Commissioner of the ABCC, Nigel was credited with bringing a remarkable era of peace and productivity to the nation's building sites.[i]
Nigel commenced his career with the Hong Kong Police Force. During his career he has led many high profile investigations and inquiries, and served on three Australian Royal Commissions. Between 1972 and 1998, he received 15 commendations, including two from District Court Judges, three from Supreme Court Judges, and one from a Chief Justice. Between 1994 and 1996, he was the Director of Operations at the Wood Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Force.  During that secondment, Nigel was awarded the Australian Police Medal (APM) for distinguished service in the 1995 Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Later that year, the Australian Federal Police promoted him to Assistant Commissioner. In 1997 Nigel was invited to Toronto to appear before a Royal Commission examining the wrongful conviction of a man for first degree murder. He assisted the Commissioner in formulating recommendations to improve the administration of criminal justice in Ontario.
Nigel holds Bachelor of Laws and Masters of Commerce degrees from the University of New South Wales.  As a Winston Churchill Fellow, in 1989 he spent five months in Northern Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, England, the USA and Canada studying Comparative Methods for Combating Organised Crime.  In 1998 Nigel was invited to York University, Toronto, as a Visiting Fellow to Canada’s largest law school, Osgoode Hall, for their 1999 winter semester. Later that year he presented seminars at All Souls College, Oxford University, and at the Inner Temple Hall of the Inner Temple Inn of Court, London.
Since 1996 Nigel has been: a member of the RMIT University’s Business Management Course Advisory Committee; a Board Member of the Australian Institute of Criminology; Chair of the Commonwealth’s Executive Leadership Group Victoria; a Board Member of the Industry Advisory Board for the Centre of Business Forensics at the University of Queensland; an Adjunct Professor with the University of Queensland’s Business School; and Chair of the Audit Committee of the Australian Institute of Criminology.

[i] The Australian Financial Review Magazine, October 2007 p.121.

On 12 September 2017 The Australian revealed another side to this gentleman:
Nigel Hadgkiss appearing at a hearing into the Fair Work Building and Construction at Parliament House in Canberra
Australian Building and Construction Commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss has admitted to contravening the Fair Work Act, sparking fresh calls by the construction union for him to resign.
In an embarrassment to the Coalition, Mr Hadgkiss will face a civil penalty hearing in the Federal Court on Friday.
In an agreed statement of facts tendered in court today, Mr Hadgkiss admitted that in December 2013 he directed that looming changes to right of entry laws — that were beneficial to unions and workers — not be published by the agency.
The Coalition won the federal election in September 2013 but the previous Labor government had passed changes to the right of entry laws that came into operation on January 1, 2014.
Before the amendments, a union official had to follow a reasonable request by an employer about where they could hold site discussions with workers.
Under the ALP changes, the employer was no longer authorised to give such a request. If no agreement could be reached, the union official could meet workers in their regular meal room for discussion.
According to the statement of agreed facts, Mr Hadgkiss met two senior agency staff on December 19, 2013 and directed that no changes be made to agency educational material to reflect the new law.
A senior agency staffer said he told another senior employee that there was a political and legal risk associated with withholding the information. The employee agreed, saying he raised his concerns with Mr Hadgkiss but he was adamant “he didn’t want us to change anything”.
Mr Hadgkiss argued the then Employment Minister Eric Abetz has promised to repeal the amendments when federal parliament resumed in 2014. He believed the amendments would be repealed and changes to the educational material would have to be reversed.
But the amendments have not been repealed and remain the law.
Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union national construction secretary, Dave Noonan said Mr Hadgkiss should resign or be sacked by Employment Minister Michaelia Cash.
“It’s a very serious matter when the regulator breaks the same laws they are supposed to be enforcing,’’ he said. “Can you imagine if the head of the ACCC admitted to breaching the Corporations Act?
According to the Remuneration Tribunal, Mr Hadgkiss receives a taxpayer-funded salary of $426,160 a year.
Asked if Senator Cash still had confidence in Mr Hadgkiss, her spokesman said “the matter is still being determined by the court and it would therefore be inappropriate to comment at this stage”.
Opposition workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor said Senator Cash had “allowed her regulator to intentionally operate in breach of the very legislation which he is authorised to enforce”.
“Unless and until the Minister publicly denounces Commissioner Hadgkiss and takes appropriate action, any comments she makes about upholding the rule of law are hollow and insincere,’’ he said.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus said Senator Cash must sack Mr Hadgkiss.
“Surely the person who has the highest responsibility, a greater responsibility, to abide by industrial laws is the person in charge of upholding them,’’ she said.
“If a police chief recklessly broke the law, which Nigel Hadgkiss has admitted to, their position would in untenable and there would be consequences. If a worker fails to follow workplace laws they can be sacked.
“Michaelia Cash is calling for the sacking of union leaders — what standard will she apply to her own employee who is in charge of upholding her laws?”
Mr Hadgkiss admitted to contravening section 503 (1) of the Fair Work Act which says a person must not take action with the intention of giving the impression, “or reckless as to whether the impression is given that the doing of a thing is authorised when it is not.
Mr Noonan said Mr Hadgkiss admitted “his conduct was reckless”.
“We believe the result of that recklessness is that the industry was misled on a key issue affecting workers’ rights,” he said.
“He has taken great care to bring multiple prosecutions against unions and workers over right of entry breaches, but has failed to conduct himself with reasonable care in relation to these same laws, and in particular those parts of the laws which extend some benefit or protection to workers.
“Mr Hadgkiss’s position as a regulator is compromised and untenable, and he should resign immediately,’
The consequence of the direction by Mr Hadgkiss was that a fact sheet, poster and pocket guide available for download on the agency website was not changed until July last year.
An article detailing the right of entry changes was published on the agency intranet for staff on January 9 2014.
It said given the changes will be “rolled back in the future”, staff should only provide advice about them if specifically asked, and presentation should not include slides about the new provisions.
On January 9 2014, Jeff Radisich, executive director of northwest operations, asked Adam Copp, the agency director of stakeholder engagement, whether the roll back would occur.
“I thought we would be stuck with these provisions until the Senate change over in July,’’ he wrote. “If that’s the case we are running something of a political and industrial risk by withholding info on the law as it currently stands.”
Mr Copp replied “to be honest, I do share your concerns and talked to Nigel about it last year”.
“However, he was absolutely adamant that he didn’t want us to change anything as the government intention is to change the legislation. He said he was extremely comfortable handling it in (Senate) estimates or the media or wherever. He felt pretty strongly about it.”
Mr Hadgkiss eventually directed the fact sheet, poster and pocket guide be withdrawn last year after Mr Noonan wrote to him in July last year, saying they misrepresented the requirements of the Fair Work Act.
A spokesman for Mr Hadgkiss said he would not comment as the matter was before the courts.
In the statement of agreed facts, Mr Hadgkiss admitted he had not read the fact sheet, poster or pocket guide prior to reviewing for the purpose of the current court case. Nor was he aware of their specific content.
He admitted he had not studied the right of entry amendments or the amending act but relied on media reports and commentary at the time to get an understanding of the broad nature of the amendments.
He said he “did not intend, believe or advert to the possibility” that an impression would be given that something was authorised by the Fair Work Act when it was not authorised.
However he accepted that he could reasonably have been expected to have foreseen the continued availability of the fact sheet, poster and pocket guide could give the impression the pre-2014 legal position remained.
Mr Noonan said the CFMEU has raised objections about the ABCC materials since 2014.
“For over two years, from 2014 until the CFMEU complained to the ABCC in 2016, multiple ABCC publications on right of entry laws did not accurately describe this provision, and incorrectly asserted that union officials had to comply with the employer’s wishes on the location of meetings,’’ he said.
“While the ABCC had ensured the correct legal position was known internally to its own staff, it disseminated incorrect information to the public and across the industry.”
The maximum fine faced by Mr Hadgkiss for the breach is $12,600.

Mr Hadgkiss will face a civil penalty hearing in the Federal Court tomorrow, Friday 15 September 2017.
Readers may remember that this is not the first time Mr. Hadgkiss has exceeded his brief.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 October 2014:
ABCC deputy commissioner at the time, Hadgkiss summoned Tribe to a compulsory interrogation, which Tribe refused to attend. He risked six months in prison but a magistrate ruled that only the ABCC commissioner had the power to issue the summons and he had not lawfully delegated that power to Hadgkiss. The ruling effectively ended the ABCC's widespread use of coercive powers.

Then there is Hadgkiss’ penchant for selectively relying on the Murdoch media for his erroneous information.


https://youtu.be/VCTU066MXvc


By 13 September 2017 it became obvious that the Minister for Employment and Liberal Senator for Western Australia Michaelia Cash had decided to put a lid on the situation - possibly in the hope that nothing more concerning the ABCC entered the public domain - applied something like the 'three strikes' rule and announced that Nigel Hadgkiss was no longer employed:

Mr Nigel Hadgkiss APM has today tendered his resignation as Commissioner of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which has been accepted by the Government..............Mr Hagdkiss will serve a two week transition period to facilitate a handover of his responsibilities to an acting Commissioner.

Closing the stable door after the horse hand bolted did not save the minister from her own folly however.

It seems Senator Cash had been aware of Hadgkiss' breach of industrial relations law since October 2016 ans sat on this information.
Apparently the national electorate is to believe that she was so disinterested in her portfolio that she missed this media report published almost two month earlier.

The Australian, 22 August 2016:

The construction union claims taxpayer-funded information being handed out by the building industry watchdog is reckless and illegal.

The CFMEU on Monday began action seeking penalties in the Federal Court in Sydney against Nigel Hadgkiss, the director of the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate.

The union says pocket guides and posters misrepresent the right to entry provisions of the Fair Work Act, which stipulate union officials are permitted to meet with employees in lunch sheds where other arrangements are not mutually agreed to.

Mr Hadgkiss told AAP in a statement: “It is inappropriate to comment on an action of this nature whilst the matter is before the court.”

CFMEU national construction division secretary Dave Noonan said Mr Hadgkiss should know better.

“It’s galling to think that Mr Hadgkiss, whose organisation have charged themselves with solely and doggedly policing right of entry disputes between the union and employers, would have promoted and distributed such critically false information,” Mr Noonan said in a statement.

UPDATE

The Guardian, 13 September 2017:

The government confirmed on Wednesday night that legal assistance would be provided to Nigel Hadgkiss in accordance with normal practice.
While the legal costs will be covered, a spokesman for the employment minister Michaelia Cash said Hadgkiss had “neither sought nor received any indemnification against any penalty that may be ordered by the court”.
It is possible he could apply for indemnification once the court proceedings move forward.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Can't live on the wage you bring home but can't get a raise from the boss? Here's the reasons why


In 2016 an est. 3.89 million people living in New South Wales had a personal weekly income of between $0 and $644 per week, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In Tasmania an est. 1.03 million people had way less than $573 per week.

Between March Quarter 2016 and March Quarter 2017 wages growth remained at record lows.

So this should come as no surprise……

Industrial relations lawyer Josh Bornstein writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 July 2017:

When Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe recently declared a "wages crisis" following a prolonged period of low wages growth, it appears to have caught the federal government on the hop. Quick to respond to crises about border protection, terrorism and rising energy prices, this is one crisis that renders the government mute. There is no plan, no working group, or commissioning of a white paper from the Productivity Commission. Instead, the government has announced a plan to pay up to 10,000 "interns" to work in the retail industry for as little as $4 an hour. This plan will only exacerbate the wages crisis.

Phillip Lowe is not the first prominent mandarin to observe that stagnant wages threaten economic growth. A new consensus has emerged since the Global Financial Crisis that anaemic wages growth and increased income inequality is retarding economies and stoking political volatility in developed economies. Nevertheless, Lowe is the first in Australia to join the chorus. His suggested remedy – that employees need to speak up more to request higher pay – is strikingly naive, inviting the obvious question. What if the boss says "no"?

Lowe's counterpart at the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, has offered a more sophisticated analysis of the wages crisis, focused on the transformation of the labour market. Haldane recently observed that profound changes in workplaces had produced a period of "divide and conquer" that left workers less able to bargain for higher wages. "There is power in numbers. A workforce that is more easily divided than in the past may find itself more easily conquered. In other words, a world of divisible work may reduce workers' wage-bargaining power," he said.

The collapse in bargaining power for workers that Haldane has observed is reflected in the plight of Australian trade unions, which are languishing at their weakest point in their history. Only 14.5 per cent of employees belong to a trade union. In the private sector, that number sits at a shocking 10 per cent and falling. The tipping point passed long ago. Australian trade unions are fighting for their survival. That wage growth and employee share of GDP has hit record lows is no coincidence…..

The explanation for the severity of the collapse of unionisation is far more prosaic. It's our laws. Unions have been seriously weakened by 30 years of constant political and legislative attacks. The last conservative prime minister not to establish a royal commission into trade unions was Billy McMahon (1971-1972). For decades, business lobby groups have permanently and successfully campaigned for legislative change that weakens unions.

In this era, workplace laws have been changed in two key ways. First, the laws have been deregulated to encourage employers to cut wages and de-unionise their workplaces. At the same time, unions have been subjected to complex regulation that restricts their ability to access workplaces, recruit members and to bargain for better wages and conditions. The laws have allowed employers unprecedented ability to cut labour costs, outmanoeuvre employees and their unions while at the same time inveigling unions into a kind of regulatory quicksand…..

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