Tuesday 19th September 2006
The Coalition and the OWS also work together at a local level, as the NSWNA can attest.
The OWS and the local National Party MP for the federal seat of Parkes, John Cobb, got involved in the case of five local nurses after the NSWNA publicised their plight.
The nurses were made redundant after their nursing home told them they must accept reclassification as Care Service Employees, on lower pay, or lose their jobs. There was no consultation and no negotiations with the NSWNA.
Cobb says he referred the case to the OWS after the nurses asked him as their local MP to answer specific questions about their situation.
One of the nurses says that when the OWS finally got around to talking to her she wasn’t satisfied with its performance.
‘I was made redundant on 14 June and I didn’t hear from them until 2 August. When I asked the woman from the OWS what could she do for me she said “nothing”,’ she said.
John Cobb wasted no time in using the OWS findings that nothing illegal had happened at the nursing home as ammunition to attack the NSWNA for sticking up for the nurses’ rights.
‘They [NSWNA] are taking a situation where people do not have the job specifications required and are trying to turn it into an unlawful dismissal case. Well, I can only conclude that, in actual fact, nothing illegal happened here.’
NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda says that Coalition MPs like Cobb are being disingenuous, using the OWS and ambiguous language to whitewash the impact of their new IR laws.
‘Coalition politicians like John Cobb are being slippery when talking about their own laws. They are covering up injustices in the workplace because they have made poor behaviour by employers legal. And they cover up the fact they have virtually abolished unfair dismissal laws by referring to unlawful dismissal laws – a separate and narrow legal remedy available to very few.’
The redundant nurse says she was very disappointed by John Cobb’s reaction.
‘He’s our local MP and he’s done nothing to support us. He’s just passed the buck giving it to the OWS. I believe all this happened because of Howard’s IR laws. Two of us are widows – one with six kids and I have two. We live in a small rural town with no jobs. It’s just forcing us to live relying on Centrelink.’
Unlawful vs unfair dismissal
Unlawful dismissal laws do not protect workers from unfair dismissal. They only cover terminations of employees for very narrow discrimination reasons such as race, sexual preference, disability, ethnicity, age or gender.’
Unfair dismissal laws cover all the most common types of unfair or unjust dismissal: for raising an issue about pay, or requesting time away from work, or if their employer is unfairly criticising your work performance.