Thursday, 30 March 2006
Questions without Notice
Workplace Relations: Unfair Dismissal
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Senator Abetz. I refer the minister to a question asked yesterday about employers who sack their employees and then rehire them on lower wages. Is the minister aware of the case of three employees who were sacked by the Melbourne construction firm InstallEx but then offered their old jobs back on a lower pay and with casual conditions? Weren’t these workers then left with the choice of taking their old job back but now as a casual worker doing the same thing but on $20,000 less a year each or becoming unemployed. Isn’t a system like that simply unfair and unAustralian?
I understand from news reports that the three employees of InstallEx have been made redundant because there is not enough work for them. Apparently, they have been offered work on a casual basis under individual contracts. It is a fact that, under Work Choices, an employee who has been terminated for genuine operational reasons, is excluded from making an unfair dismissal claim even if they work for a business that employs more than 100 employees. However, an employer cannot unlawfully discriminate against an employee when terminating employment on genuine operational grounds. An employee who is dismissed for a combination of operational and discriminatory reasons—for example, because of race or age—is still able to obtain remedies for unlawful termination of—
Why is it that the Labor Party do not want to hear about the benefits afforded to the workers of this country? I am advised that a senior inspector from the Office of Workplace Services undertook a site visit of InstallEx yesterday and found no evidence that InstallEx has failed to abide by its industrial obligations. I am also advised that the redundancies are genuine and that redundancy certificates for all three workers have been finalised and are being lodged with the appropriate fund to ensure the workers receive their lawful entitlements without undue delay. With regard to the three redundant workers, I understand that two of the three are already working for a separate company, InstallEx Vic. Pty Ltd, which operates in the residential building industry.
What we have here is a classic case where we have built in flexibility. Without this flexibility, they would be without a job. That was the Labor Party remedy, and that is why we had one million fellow Australians unemployed under their regime. They still do not get it. People would prefer a job rather than being on the social scrapheap of unemployment.
You resided over one million of our fellow Australians in that disgraceful position. We said, ‘That is not good enough.’ We have reduced it by half, but we are saying that it still is not good enough. We have to do more. We want to do more. We will do more. As a result, people will have greater job opportunities with greater wages.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister confirm that workers sacked and then offered their jobs back on lower wages will not be able to take action for unlawful dismissal and have no rights to dispute their dismissal? Can the minister also explain why the government thinks it is okay for employers to sack workers one day and rehire them to do the same job but on lower wages and poorer conditions the very next day?
With great respect, this is the embarrassing situation opposition senators get themselves into when they have a pre-prepared supplementary question without listening to the detail of the answer to the primary question.