New South Wales fights back

Peter Primrose

The New South Wales Government has opposed the federal government's industrial relations agenda by:

  • Rejecting formal requests by the federal government that NSW hand over its industrial powers; and challenging the constitutional validity of the new federal laws in the High Court of Australia. Hearings concluded on 11 May 2006, and the decision is expected in late 2006.

  • Passing legislation on 9 March 2006 to shield 189,000 public sector workers - including nurses, ambulance officers, TAFE teachers and bus drivers - from the divisive and unbalanced WorkChoices legislation. The Public Sector Employment Legislation Amendment Act 2006 ensures that their wages, conditions and entitlements are not eroded by WorkChoices.

  • Committing State Owned Corporations not to use the federal government industrial relations changes to cut pay and conditions.

  • Passing the Industrial Relations Amendment Act 2006 on 9 March 2006, which authorises the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW to conciliate and arbitrate disputes in circumstances where a common law contractual agreement confers a power to do so.

  • Announcing proposals to amend the Industrial Relations Amendment Act 2006 to permit the Industrial Relations Commission to provide alternative dispute resolutions services to employees and employers in the federal system, and to allow the Industrial Relations Commission to sit jointly with the industrial tribunals of other states. This will enable the efficient and comprehensive consideration of evidence in wage and other test cases, and make it easier for the states to fill the gap left by federal government's removal of fairness as a consideration in setting wages and conditions in WorkChoices.

  • "Young workers will not have to individually bargain to maintain their existing penalty rates, allowances, training pay and training leave, and will also have a right to challenge unfair dismissals in the New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission."

  • Announcing proposals to protect in excess of 150,000 young people under the age of 18 who are in formal employment by legislating that wages and conditions for young workers must be at least equal to NSW awards and legislation. Importantly, young workers will not have to individually bargain to maintain their existing penalty rates, allowances, training pay and training leave. Young people will also have a right to challenge unfair dismissals in the New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission.

  • Announcing proposals to ensure that current provisions for the protection of injured workers remain viable and accessible and to protect employees from dismissal or victimisation for raising legitimate OH & S issues at work.