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Thursday, March 23, 2006

The industrial relations Pandora's Box doesn't suit some

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As Australia gets set to implement the Howard Government's new industrial relations regime starting Monday, the flaws in the legislation are beginning to show. Shoddy draughtsmanship of the legislation - reflecting a lack of any practical knowledge of the real politic and practical dynamics of industrial relations on the ground - is being exposed like cracks in a jerry-built skyscraper. Fancy that - and with all those top flight private sector industrial lawyers doing the work!!!

The private sector industrial lawyers assisting the Howard Government in their appropriation of the Corporations Act for industrial relations purposes include Freehills who boast of their involvement with Australia's largest mining companies and the mining industry organizations, Australian Mines and Metals Association and the Minerals Council of Australia. Freehills have been involved in union-busting activities for a long time. Now their clients are not entirely happy with the legislation they have generated!

It does bring a smile to Miss Eagle's face to hear a company like Rio Tinto and the mining industry organization, Australian Mines and Metals Association, complaining. Rio Tinto, in particular, has wanted to kick unions out of the industry. The huge mining multinational has a long history of undermining unions in the mining industry. They support in principle a centralised and national industrial relations system. Now they have opened Pandora's Box they are bleating to the government. No satisfying some.

Rio Tinto has been happy to emasculate the right-wing AWU, Australia's major metalliferous mining union. Now they want protection from the militant left-wing CFMEU who may find some provisions in the new legislation to their advantage in their battle against the AWU on mine sites around the nation.

IR swings like a pendulum do
Big multinationals, two by two
Unions of workers, the right and the left
And, on the ground, the workers bereft.
(Sung to the tune of England Swings: apologies to Roger Miller)