PARLIAMENT WATCH: FAIR WORK AMENDMENT BILL 2013

As previously reported in our April Update, the Labor Government has draft legislation before the Federal Parliament to amend the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). The Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013 (Bill) was read into the House of Representatives on 21 March 2013. The Bill seeks to introduce a new workplace bullying complaints regime, expand the right to request flexible work arrangements, introduce penalty rates in the modern awards objectives and family friendly provisions including expanding the eligibility for carer’s leave and protections for pregnant mothers among other things.

Since the Bill was introduced into the Lower House it was referred to the Senate Committee on Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation (Senate Committee). The Senate Committee delivered its report on 14 May 2013 with mixed responses. The main area of contention appears to arise from the changes to the right of entry laws which if passed in its current form will make lunchrooms the default venue for meetings called by visiting union representatives and will require employers in remote locations to accommodate union visits to those sites.

Despite strong opposition from employer groups and the Coalition senators on a few key provisions, it seems the Bill will be successful given the Labor and Greens Committee members recommended it be passed through the Senate.

OVER 1000 JOBS TO GO WHEN FORD AUSTRALIA SHUTS DOWN MANUFACTURING IN AUSTRALIA

On 23 May 2013, Ford Australia President Mr Bob Graziano announced that Ford Australia will close its manufacturing plants in Australia in October 2016. The closure of the plants in Broadmeadows and Geelong located in the State of Victoria will see over 1,000 jobs cut from the current workforce of over 3,000 Ford employees in Australia. The plant closures are likely to impact associated industries, with further flow-on job losses expected in the components sector that supports the 200,000 employees in the car manufacturing industry in Australia.

This announcement follows a prediction from former US Ford boss, Jac Nasser, that the demise of the entire Australian car manufacturing sector was inevitable. Ford Australia, which commenced manufacturing in Australia in 1925, joins a growing list of car manufacturers to close Australian plants, most notably Mitsubishi Motors Australia which closed its vehicle assembly plant in 2008. Recently, Holden announced in April 2013 that it would cut 500 jobs and last year Toyota retrenched 350 employees from its manufacturing plant in Victoria. Despite the plant closures of Australia’s first major car manufacturer, Ford Australia said it will retain about 1,000 employees in product development.

Out of the 1,200 employee affected by the closure, the Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) is reported to represent about 90% of those employees. The Federal and Victorian Governments have offered to contribute financial assistance to deal with job losses from Ford and supply chain workers affected by the closures.