Tony Abbott reveals IR policy, promises better conditions for workers

Australia’s resource industry employer group has welcomed Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s workplace relations policy, saying it is a step in the right direction on critical workplace issues.

Abbott announced yesterday that under a Coalition government, Australian workers would have access to higher wages and better working conditions.

Unveiling his industrial relations policy with workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz, Abbott insisted Work Choices was dead and buried, news.com reported.

"The past is the past and we will not go back to it," Abbott said.

Instead, the opposition leader outlined workers would have access to flexibility arrangements, a Productivity Commission review into Fair Work laws would be commissioned and the Australian Building and Construction Commission would be re-established to "stamp out" union corruption.

"We want to protect workers' pay and conditions," Abbott said.

"The only people with anything to worry about from this policy is dodgy union officials and their supporters."

"I understand unions, I respect well-run unions. I understand and respect unionists. But I also understand and respect the 87 per cent of workers in this country who choose not to be members of unions," he said.

Changes would mean union rights to enter workplaces would be restricted and the Fair Work Act changed to ensure a process of "talking first and striking later" when it came to protected industrial action.

"I want to assure all the workers of Australia – unionised and non-unionised – that they can trust their future in our hands,” he said.

Abbott said the policy would work towards the Coalition’s plan to add one million jobs to the economy in five years.

He promised the coalition won’t touch unfair dismissal laws or penalty rates and look to "retain and improve" Labor's Fair Work Act.

AMMA have welcomed the new measures set out in Abbott’s plan saying it will assist resource employers in securing investment, bringing projects to market and create jobs.

“The Coalition policy is a substantial step in the right direction on critical workplace issues that are stifling the resource industry’s ability to drive economic growth and job creation,” AMMA director Scott Barklamb said.

“It is in our national interest to develop a workplace relations framework that allows Australia to sustain the benefits coming from the enormous growth within out resource industry.”

However, other warned against the policy.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said workers needed to be worried about the policy, particularly the key focus of Individual Flexibility Arrangements.

"What it means is they lose wages, conditions and any semblance of negotiating power in the workplace," Kearney said.

"This is very, very concerning to us, we are concerned today about the future of Australian workplaces and our workers."

Abbott said there would be no further changes to IR laws than what was outlined in his policy.

"We will not deliver less than our policy and we will go no further," he said.

"If elected, these are the only changes that an incoming government will make in a first term.

"We need a workplace relations system for everyone and that's what the coalition intends to deliver under this policy."

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