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New IR Laws Will Hurt Workplace Health And Safety, say ACTU

May 3 2006 - The ACTU is asking the Howard Government to repeal sections of the new industrial relations laws banning workplace agreements from giving employees leave to attend health and safety training or meetings provided by unions.

According to ACTU Secretary Greg Combet, Kevin Andrews, the Employment Minister is "wrong to say that health and safety regulation is wholly a matter for State and Territory governments.

"The Howard Government's new WorkChoices IR laws ban workplace agreements from mandating that health and safety training can be provided by a trade union."

Combet points to Section 8.5 of the WorkChoices IR regulations which lists a number of matters that are banned or deemed 'prohibited content' in a Collective Agreement or individual contract (AWA). It states:

A term of a workplace agreement is prohibited content to the extent that it deals with the following:

(c) employees bound by the agreement receiving leave to attend training (however described) provided by a trade union;

(d) employees bound by the agreement receiving paid leave to attend meetings (however described) conducted by or made up of trade union members;

WorkChoices Regulations: Division 7.1, Subdivision B, Section 8.5

Also, Section 365 of the WorkChoices law provides that a person who seeks to include prohibited content in a workplace agreement can be subject to Government fines and penalties of up to $6,000 for individuals and $33,000 for unions.

Combet says that thousands of Australian workers in almost every industry receive health and safety training from unions every year.

"It is a fact that in the last two years alone, NSW unions have trained 20,000 workers in occupational health and safety with access to the training specifically provided under the trade union training leave clauses that are in awards and agreements.

"It is essential that Australian workers continue to have access to health and safety and other training that unions provide.

I call on the Prime Minister to intervene and repeal the ban on union training in workplace agreements in the new WorkChoices legislation," said Greg Combet.


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