30 Oct 2014

Union condemns workplace laws

6:49 am on 30 October 2014

The Meat Workers Union has condemned new industrial relations legislation due to have its final reading in Parliament.

It regards the Employment Relations Amendment Bill as a leap backwards to the employer-friendly Employment Contracts Act of 1991 which weakened unions' negotiating rights.

The union's national secretary, Graham Cooke, said it is mostly concerned about provisions in the new law that will undermine collective bargaining.

"We have enough difficulty now trying to negotiate collective employment agreements with reticent employers that prefer not to deal with the union whatsoever.

"Some of the characters (running meat companies) are are generally good to work with, but there is a group that is at the other extreme, that does not want to have any dealings with unions, they don't want any seniority provisions, they're quite happy to do away with smoko breaks.

"These are the employers that we believe will make the industry untenable for many workers."

Mr Cooke said in some ways, the new employment laws are worse than the 1991 legislation.

"Because an employer that's deliberately decided that there's no way they're going to deal with a union can just look across the table and say, we're out of here. We already have employers that virtually just sit there, smiling at us and saying, when are you going to leave, because they have no intention of negotiating a collective employment agreement."

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