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Bill to limit power of employers

The Australian Greens have introduced legislation to allow employers and employees to bargain on job security and workloads.

Greens workplace relations spokesman Adam Bandt has introduced a private member's bill to parliament yesterday which he says would give Fair Work Australia the power to help resolve the nurses' dispute and limit powerful employers like Qantas using lockout as a legal tactic.

The bill would force employers to give three days' notice of a lockout and ensure the Fair Work Act takes into account the workloads of employees and their job security.

"These amendments would make it more likely that disputes will be resolved," Bandt told parliament.

He said it was time to redress the balance in workplaces that allowed employers to use strong-arm industrial tactics to avoid fair bargaining over key issues such as nurse-patient ratios.

Bandt said workers in essential services were disadvantaged in workplace negotiations because their rights to take industrial action were limited and Fair Work Australia was barred from arbitrating on key issues such as nurse-patient ratios.

The legislation seeks to allow employers and employees to bargain about job security and workloads.

Bandt, who represents the electorate of Melbourne, said the Victorian nurses stand-off could be resolved quickly if the federal government backed his legislation.

“As an industrial lawyer for over a decade, you can spot when a powerful employer is stringing out negotiations because they think they'll get a better outcome before a legally hamstrung Fair Work Australia. That's exactly what the Baillieu government is doing,” he said.

“Employers like the Victorian Government have a double advantage under the Fair Work Act. First, people like nurses have fewer rights to take industrial action because they work in an essential service. Second, if the dispute ends up in arbitration, legal barriers mean the tribunal will only deal with some issues and won’t impose outcomes like nurse-patient ratios.

“As a result, the government is dragging its feet in the negotiations, hoping to somehow force the dispute to arbitration. Nurses are stuck in an impossible Catch 22, where if they take industrial action nurse-patient ratios disappear, but if they don’t take industrial action, the dispute doesn’t get resolved.”

The Victorian Hospitals Industrial Association is seeking a Federal Court hearing to force nurses to comply with a Fair Work Australia order to lift work bans after nurses at 12 public hospitals joined in work stoppages.

Debate on the Fair Work (Job Security and Fairer Bargaining) Amendment Bill 2012 was adjourned.

With AAP

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