Your rights at work restored

The Rudd Government’s new IR system junks WorkChoices and restores your rights at work.

The new IR system introduced by the Rudd Government sets up a safety net of legally-guaranteed workplace standards, modernises awards, restores the independent umpire and puts collective bargaining at the heart of our workplace relations.

The new system overturns WorkChoices and was achieved after four years of vigo-rous campaigning by union members.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who shepherded the laws through Parliament and the Senate in the face of Opposition obstruction, said the Government was determined to deliver on its promise to get rid of WorkChoices.

‘We pledged to the Australian people we would deliver fairness at work. We said that the Senate should not underestimate the Government’s resolve to get this job done. Now it is mission accomplished.’

Three tiers of job security

The Federal Government has now set in place a system that provides a safety net and a mechanism for improving pay and conditions at three levels:

  • There is an improved safety net of 10 national employment standards that are enshrined in law and cover everyone under the national IR system.
  • There are modern awards that set occupational standards. Eg. a new Modern Nurses Occupational Award 2010 for the nursing profession.
  • Collective Agreements will continue to be the main avenue for improving pay and conditions at the level of the workplace – now called ‘Enterprise Agreements’, not UCAs.

The national employment standards cover conditions such as annual leave, public holidays, long service leave, the 38-hour week and unfair dismissal.

WorkChoices gave employers the opportunity to erode these fundamental conditions. Under the new laws these rights are legally protected.

Modern awards will contain, and protect, minimum wage rates, hours of work, overtime and penalty rates, leave and superannuation.

A win for collective action

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes said the new laws are a very good outcome of the Your Rights At Work campaign.

‘These laws aren’t everything we wanted but they are a drastic improve-ment on WorkChoices. In the worrying economic environment that is evolving they give nurses and midwives important fundamental protections,’ he said.

‘But it is important to remember they are a safety net. Any improvements in pay and conditions still have to be won in a bargaining environment. In this economic climate nothing will be delivered to us on a plate. We will need strong workplace organisation and the effective mobilisation of nurses during bargaining campaigns if we are to improve our pay and conditions.’

What the new IR laws deliver

  • Genuine rights for workers to collectively bargain and be represented by their union.
  • Unfair dismissal protection for all workers — with workers in smaller businesses having a longer qualifying period.
  • A robust new safety net of awards and national standards, along with a fair and transparent process for setting minimum wages.
  • An industrial umpire with the power to safeguard workers’ rights.