The first day of the Rudd government’s Fair Work industrial relations era is a historic occasion, and one that will be celebrated by workers across the country, ACTU president Sharan Burrow says.
The new Fair Work Australia system came into force on Wednesday, replacing the Howard government’s unpopular Work Choices.
Under the Fair Work Act, unfair dismissal laws will once again apply to small businesses, a stronger safety net applies and collective bargaining is preferred to individual contracts.
A new and more powerful industrial umpire, Fair Work Australia, replaces the Fair Pay Commission.
Ms Burrow welcomed the dawning of the new industrial relations era, saying it was a historic day for the country.
It was the beginning of a “harmonious, respectful” future for workers, she said.
“Across the country Australian workers are celebrating,” she told reporters in Sydney.
“They stood up against Work Choices … they fought to get back unfair dismissal rights, a safety net standard for awards, the right to bargain collectively and an independent umpire.
“Today, families, working Australians, their unions and employers can get on with the show.”
ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence urged employers, who have voiced fears of excessive wage claims and a return to pattern bargaining, to embrace the Fair Work system.
“We call on all the employers in Australia to recognise the rights people have under this legislation to sit down with their union, and to negotiate a collective agreement when that will provide a safer workplace … and ultimately greater protections and rights,” he said.