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Today’s (Nov 1) Australian contains some excellent analyses of the Qantas/FWA situation, including in the main editorial and letters. Most importantly, barrister Gerard Boyce (who specialises in IR cases) has pointed out that “the industrial action taken against Qantas would have been illegal under the Workplace Relations Act”.

Some of you will already have seen this letter (also published in the AFR) and the key point made in it viz that this is contrary to what is being claimed by Gillard and other supporters of the regulated system under FWA, including by an academic in yesterday’s Age (Forsyth) who once gave a presentation (sic) at an HRN conference. This wrong claim provides a golden opportunity for the Coalition (and others) to call for immediate action to change the legislation because it is not working, prevents companies from managing their businesses efficiently and offers an open door to union leaders prepared to take aggressive action regardless of the potential adverse consequences for their members as well as for the companies. Note also the heading in the AFR indicating that Gillard is taking sides with the unions.

The Opposition’s call should be that the FWA must be replaced as a matter of urgency – ie without an inquiry. If the Government doesn’t do this it would provide a weapon to use against them as potentially powerful as the carbon tax eg why are you stopping companies from managing their businesses? (I suspect others could think of something better than this!)

It is surely an opportune time for the Opposition to take sides, not against unions per se but against allowing them powers that threaten the economy and the well being of Australian citizens.

Des Moore

Under constant strike threats, Qantas had no choice
letter by Gerard Boyce published in The Australian, 1 November 2011

JULIA Gillard has sought to portray the Qantas dispute as an industrial dispute that could have equally happened under the (repealed) Workplace Relations Act (as amended by Work Choices). This is not so.

The Workplace Relations Act prohibited protected industrial action being taken in relation to "prohibited matters" (such as the use of independent contractors and labour hire).

Gillard's Fair Work Act has removed all prohibited matters when it comes to bargaining, opening up the claims now being made by unions against Qantas (and other employers) to limit outsourcing and contractors under the guise of job security.

The industrial action taken against Qantas would have been illegal under the Workplace Relations Act.

Of concern is the fact that Tony Abbott and the Coalition have failed to make this clear and identify it as an area for immediate amendment on gaining office. The issue in this dispute is not about the fact that protected industrial action is taken, but what the Fair Work Act allows it to be taken about.

Gerard Boyce, Sydney, NSW

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