Under the current workplace laws, big business have too much power over working people. The law used to allow for conciliation, and, if necessary, a decision could be reached by an independent umpire. Disputes were sorted out easily and quickly, either on the job, or in the FWC.
Under our current laws:
• Industrial action is severely restricted.
• Delegates rights are waning so it’s harder to resolve disputes on the job.
• Union officials’ right of entry has been pared back so it’s more difficult for organisers to get on the job to help resolve disputes.
• The Commission has lost the power to arbitrate.
• Employers can act unfairly with impunity.
• If an employer breaches an award or an agreement the only remedy is through lengthy, complicated and expensive court processes.
Even when an agreement has a disputes resolution procedure, the FWC may only be able to conciliate.
Arbitration clauses in agreements are not compulsory. Employers are increasingly refusing to put arbitration clauses into agreements, making the arbitration of disputes voluntary.
During an agreement, industrial action is illegal. It is only available to press claims in bargaining for a new agreement.
Workers have less power to protest unfair actions by their employer. The law is so unfair, that any stoppage of work will result in four hours’ pay being docked. That means a 10 minute stop work meeting to discuss a workplace issue sees workers lose four hours’ pay.
When people don’t get paid properly, the FWC lacks the power to step in. It can’t arbitrate or make orders. This applies to disputes about agreement rights, award rights and the National Employment Standards.
Instead, unions have to take employers to court. Even the simplest court cases are complex, time consuming and costly. The simplest dispute can get lost in a maze of litigation.
It’s one thing to have entitlements on paper but that’s no use if they can’t be enforced. Our laws have made it difficult to enforce rights. Unions’ right of entry has been restricted. The balance of power has shifted away from workers.
This has to change. Court action is drawn out, expensive and doesn’t work to keep rogue employers in line. There needs to be a better way to protect our hard fought entitlements.
The best way to stand up for workers' rights is to join your union and change the rules.