The Australian Government will urgently introduce an amendment to the Fair Work Act to protect the entitlements of tens of thousands of state public servants threatened by job cuts announced by state governments.
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten said the amendment, to be introduced in the next sitting of Federal Parliament, will change the transfer of business provisions in the Act to protect entitlements of former state public service employees where a state government outsources work or sells assets to private sector employers.
“I am deeply concerned about recent announcements by state governments to cut tens of thousands of public service jobs. The Commonwealth will do what it can to protect the terms and conditions of these workers. There is potential for state governments who outsource arrangements or asset sales to put at risk the pay and conditions of these employees,” Mr Shorten said.
“This is of particular concern in Queensland with the Newman Government’s announcement that it will cut the jobs of 14,000 public sector workers.”
“The Newman Government has already legislated to override employment security provisions and limitations on the use of contractors in state public sector agreements, paving the way for outsourcing of public sector jobs.”
“The Gillard Government will not stand idly by and let the Liberal State Governments cut wages and conditions by stealth.”
“The attack on public sector entitlements is not confined to Queensland.”
“We’ve seen 15,000 public sector workers in New South Wales who have been cut in two budgets, including the 800 workers in the TAFE sector who have fallen victim to the O’Farrell Government’s $1.7 billion education cuts. There are also some 5,500 public sector workers in Victoria who are facing the axe.”
The Fair Work Act’s transfer of business provisions protect employee entitlements where a business changes hands and the new employer employs the old employer’s workers to do the same job.
These provisions currently only operate where both the old and new employers are covered by the national workplace relations system.
The amendments would ensure that where there is a transfer of business from a state public sector employer to a new employer in the national workplace relations system, the former public sector employees will see their existing terms and conditions and accrued entitlements protected, and have their prior service recognised.
“State public sector workers should not be worse off as a result of state governments outsourcing their jobs,” Mr Shorten said.
“Today I have written to my State and Territory colleagues seeking their feedback on this proposal. I respect the rights of state and territory governments to conduct their own administrations, but my strong view is the Commonwealth must ensure these employees are not disadvantaged.
“I am more than happy to work with my State and Territory colleagues to get these protections right.
The Commonwealth believes that protecting former state public sector employees in these circumstances is the right thing to do”.