Dismissal laws plan needs a rethink, says Ian Causley
By ALEX EASTON
THE Federal Government needs to rethink plans to exempt businesses of up to 100 employees from unfair dismissal laws, Nationals Page MP Ian Causley says.
Mr Causley's comments came as more than 100 unionists gathered outside his Lismore office to protest against proposed new industrial relations laws they say will strip workers of entitlements and job security.
The unionists, led by ACTU president Sharon Burrow, argued that most workers on the Northern Rivers worked for businesses with fewer than 100 employees, and all of those would be able to be sacked without recourse to unfair dismissal laws under the Government proposals.
They also argued against changes to the award system, which they said would scrap state-based awards in favour of a single national award that offered fewer entitlements and would cost workers rest-time and money.
The last thing the unionists expected was for Mr Causley to agree with them; but, speaking after the rally, he backed their concerns about unfair dismissal laws.
"In the party room this is something we're going to have to have a close look at," he said.
"I don't know if you can say a business with 100 employees is a small business ... I'm more concerned about the five to 20employee group."
However, Mr Causley also said that there were problems with the existing unfair dismissal laws, suggesting an entirely new system would be needed.
"If another system can have a quick recourse to justice where it doesn't work out that the employer has to come up with thousands of dollars ... just saying 'You can't sack someone doesn't work'," he said.
However, he rejected claims the proposal to have a single national award would cut working condi- tions, saying it would have no impact.
Ms Burrow said Mr Causley was wrong.
She said existing federal awards had fewer conditions for workers than state awards.
That meant people working under state awards would then have to lose some of their conditions when they were moved over to the federal award.
Ms Burrow's meeting with Mr Causley and the protest was organised at the request of Lismore unionists and was the first of a series of regional protests she said would be held across Australia.