The Fair Work Bill. The National Employment Standard. Right to information?
Rights to information and consultation about work and employer decision-making is a key industrial relations issue. The ACTU found in a survey of 8,000 workers 70% were â€˜very concerned or concernedâ€™ about the lack of information and consultation in their workplace.
So what is the DPM’s response in the Fair Work bill? In the NES legally employees can recieve The Fair Work Information Statement. This is only a right to receive a description of the governmentâ€™s industrial relations legislation in the government Gazette! That is all! This is simply pathetic and into 1984 double-speak to be described as an advance for workersâ€™ rights. Get onto your Senator. Your Rights at Work deserve better.
The Howard Government abolished award rights for consultation. Except where organised by unions with forms of joint consultative committees and with State based Occupational Health and Safety rights, workers do not have legal workplace democracy rights.
Australian citizens can vote democratically, but not at work for their representatives (except where orgaised and agreed to by a good employer). Inequalities in the workplace cannot be addressed unless have some rights. Where employers do not agree, workers deserve a minimum entitlement to have a say over their employment status, their unreasonable hours and working conditions and over unreasonable management prerogative and a voice.
But employees have no legal rights to information or consultation or to elect a workplace representative structure.
What is missing in the FWB is any attempt at minimum workers democracy rights that are legislated for elsewhere, e.g. the European Works Council Directives where the giant corporations are able to exist and prosper with such worker entitlements. You can examine in Europe information and consultative obligations covering small and medium businesses. Such legislative minima provide an process to assist redressing power inequalities.
There is much literature on industrial democracy and in some countries Worksâ€™ Councils. One reference reviewed on this blog is â€˜Works Councils in Australia Future Prospects and Possibilitiesâ€™, edited by Paul Gollan, Ray Markey and Iain Ross, Federation Press, 2002.
The Senate ought to insist on minimum rights for employees to information about the business, enterprise and industry they are working in. There ought to be on request legal rights for employees to have information and be consulted about and participate in management decision-making and the ability for union and employee representatives to have some democratic structure and voice as a National Employment Standard.