The NSW Government has started its High Court challenge against the Federal Government’s WorkChoices laws and has vowed to use its powers to minimise their adverse impact on NSW employees.
The state government will argue in the High Court that the Howard Government has exceeded its powers under the Australian constitution. Other state governments have indicated they will follow NSW’s lead. The High Court challenge is expected to be heard in the first half of 2006.
‘The case we will put before the High Court will demonstrate that the Howard Government has misused its authority in conducting a hostile takeover of powers that are constitutionally vested in the states,’ the NSW Minister for Industrial Relations, John Della Bosca, said.
‘The Iemma Government is mounting this challenge to protect workers and their families, small business owners and farmers who will all suffer if this unconstitutional law is allowed to stand.’
The NSW Government will also contest what it describes as ‘unprecedently broad regulation making powers set out in the WorkChoices Act’, which allow Federal Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, to modify the laws and unilaterally close any loopholes in their application.
Protecting nurses and other emergency workers
The NSW Government says it is also looking at other measures to minimise the harmful impact of WorkChoices on NSW employees.
‘The (NSW) Government has received advice that close to half the public sector will not be covered by WorkChoices, unless the state refers its powers,’ said John Della Bosca.
‘A Iemma Labor government will not jeopardise vital frontline services by condemning nurses, police, firefighters and other personnel to the Commonwealth’s unfair and conflict-ridden workplace model.’
The NSW Government has also promised to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Unions NSW to honour all wages, salaries and conditions in agreements, regardless of the federal legislation. It also promises to retain the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.
It’s only good news for some
NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes says he welcomes the news from the state government but remains cautious.
‘Until we see the legislation underpinning the promises we need to continue to prepare ourselves for the introduction of WorkChoices for all our membership,’ he said.
‘In any case, even if our public sector members are given some protection, we must still stand together with the more than 20,000 of our members who will not receive any protection.’
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