New Year Laws To Cover Guestworkers On Our Coast

Australian labour laws will now cover foreign seafarers, guest workers, on ships trading Australian domestic cargo on our coast, in a major victory for Australian shipping and both Australian and international seafarers.

But the legislation did not pass through parliament, without some modifications to get Senate approval.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard was forced to offer a compromise when the Opposition threatened to use their numbers in the Senate to block Regulations under the Fair Work Act aimed at ensuring Australian labour standards apply to all seafarers operating in the Australian coastal trade.

For the time being ships with one or two permit voyages in any 12 months will be exempt from the operation of the Fair Work Act (and any Award made under the Act).

"Nevertheless it is still an important step towards protecting Australian coastal shipping from unfair competition and foreign seafarers from exploitation," said MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin. "The principle that any worker coming to Australia to work in any industry should be covered by Australian labour laws now applies to Australian waters."

 The legislation comes into effect on January 1.

The Australian Industrial Relations Commission Seagoing Industry Award 2010 (SIA), however will not come into effect for foreign seafarers for another year. 

The commission has separated permit ships from non-permit ships delaying implementation of the Fair Work Act 2009 on international ships until January, 2011.

A spokeswoman for the federal employment and workplace relations minister, Julia Gillard, told DCN Lloyds List that AIRC had created two parts to the award - Part A to be for non-permit ships, which are respondents to the current award, and Part B for permit ships.

"For Part B, the AIRC has confirmed that due regard will need to be paid to international conditions, including those in the International Transport Federation's agreement, as well as the National Employment Standards," she said.

"Part B of the SIA will be further considered by Fair Work Australia and become operative on January 1, 2011."

 MEANWHILE the ACTU reports the new minimum employment standards for Australian workers that come into effect on New Year's Day represent a major step forward from WorkChoices.

Welcoming the changes, the ACTU says the 10 National Employment Standards deliver on a core part of the Your Rights at Work union and community campaign against WorkChoices.

They set out minimum entitlements for all workers that cannot be taken away under any circumstances, including hours of work, leave, notice of termination and redundancy pay.

Also, a raft of modern industry awards which begin to take effect from January will provide additional enforceable minimum employment terms and conditions for hundreds of thousands of other workers, including minimum wages, penalty rates, and superannuation.

"The new rights and protections that come into force on New Year's Day are in addition to enhanced unfair dismissal protection, rights to collective bargaining and a good faith bargaining regime for all workers who began in July 2009," said Sharan Burrow, ACTU President.

A key innovation in the improved safety net is a new right to request flexible working arrangements - a crucial breakthrough for working parents juggling family responsibilities.

But the ACTU warns the newly-won rights and protections were already under threat from the Federal Opposition led by Tony Abbott, who has signalled he wants to bring back a new version of WorkChoices.