5 November 2013          No. 27-13

Government attacks your rights and conditions

The Newman government has launched another attack on the rights and conditions of government workers, including teachers and principals.

The Industrial Relations (Fair Work Act Harmonisation No 2) Bill 2013 was introduced in Parliament on 17 October – the same day that the government reduced workers’ compensation benefits.

The government intends to put the legislation through the House in the last parliamentary sitting for 2013, on 19 to 21 November, to take effect from 1 December 2013.

Industrial relations legislation

The Newman government’s bill is the sixth set of amendments to state industrial legislation in 19 months in government and the third in the past six months.

It is a direct attack on a number of conditions of teachers and principals. The draft legislation:

  • institutes an award “modernisation” process to strip back conditions (as with the Howard government’s award modernisation process)
  • restricts the content allowed in awards and agreements
  • gives the government the power to put “high income senior officer” positions on contracts
  • effectively removes the right of employees to take protected industrial action in support of enterprise bargaining claims
  • requires awards to be stripped back before any new enterprise bargaining agreement can be reached
  • reduces the independence and powers of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC).

These are the main matters affecting principals and teachers, but the draft legislation has additional consequences for other groups of employees in the Queensland public sector and local government workers.

Award stripping

Awards and agreements will now not be allowed to include provisions about resource allocations, right of union entry to workplaces, restrictions on rostering arrangements, accident or injury pay or restrictions on offering contracts.

Awards cannot contain provisions about training arrangements, workload management, delivery of services or workforce planning.

Agreements cannot require an employer to manage workloads in a particular way, restrict access to training arrangements or restrict the efficient delivery of services.

Conditions likely to be eliminated as a result include:

  • class size targets
  • curriculum coordination time
  • head of curriculum
  • school-based management guarantees
  • temporary teacher access to permanency.

Contracts

The remuneration threshold for offering “high income” contracts is $129,300. This includes employer contributions to superannuation. The government claims that this harmonises with the Fair Work Act, that is not true. Originally directed towards doctors in hospitals, the Attorney-General can by a regulation remove any category of employees over the threshold salary from coverage of awards and agreements.

At the moment, that could include anyone on DSL 3/SL 3 step 3 (old band 7) and above.

Industrial action

The proposals effectively remove the right to industrial action in support of EB claims. It remains in name alone.

From seven days after the end date of an agreement, the employer can ask the QIRC to help negotiations for 14 days, after which the disputed issues can be referred to arbitration for the totally unrealistic period of 90 days.

Protected industrial action is not permitted while this or on-going arbitration occurs, and it will not even be possible to conduct a ballot for protected industrial action before the end date of the previous agreement.

QIRC

The powers of the QIRC will be further reduced and much of the work will be carried out by one-year contractors who will not have the level of independence of the tenured commissioners.

For further information visit the QTU website at https://www.qtu.asn.au/irchanges2013


 Authorised by Graham Moloney, General Secretary, Queensland Teachers' Union