Modia Minotaur

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Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Great $4,000 IR Swindle

The Federal Government's announcement of $4000 in legal assistance - shall I use the term `safety net'? - for people wishing to pursue unfair dismissal claims in court is, at the very least, the first public acknowledgement of the huge public concern about the government's plans for industrial relations.

Is it a valid remedy? Frankly - no. Currently, unfair dismissal cases are dealt with by the Industrial Relations Commission. $4000 or no $4000, they will now become court cases, where they did not need to be before. The payment does nothing to address the inequity of a system which gives some rights to people working for companies with over 100 employees but none to those who have less than 100 - something which, it could be argued, will also discourage companies from expanding beyond the magic number. The fact also remains that unlawful dismissal cases are extremely hard to prove. No employer is going to say `I'm firing you because you're gay/pregnant/black', because they know that's unlawful. The basis of unfair dismissal cases is frequently `My employer fired me because he/she said I wasn't required anymore, but I have some evidence to indicate that it was actually because I'm gay/pregnant/black'.

It will be interesting to see what further ice cubes the government throw into the blast furnace ahead of the legislation's official release in the next few months.

Update: Given that Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews will be the special guest on ABC's Insiders this week, what solace can he offer? Eh Kev? Anything, anything? Perhaps the government has realised all too late that they got the wrong Big Kev ....

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