Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Age - "Gay parents winners under workplace changes" by Misha Schubert and Ben Schneiders

GAYS and lesbians would win the right to take one year each of unpaid parental leave from 2010 under changes to Labor's employment standards.

But the move could face resistance in the Senate, where conservatives have flagged their unease over gay parenting.

Unveiling its final draft of a legal safety net, the Rudd Government also conceded the need to protect a lost tribe of workers.

Labor yesterday asked the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to create a generic award to cover workers falling outside the award system. It aims to guarantee all lower-paid workers 10 basic conditions, including the minimum wage.

But Prime Minister Kevin Rudd came under fire in Parliament for refusing to guarantee that no worker would be worse off under the safety net. Instead, he attacked the Coalition's WorkChoices regime.

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop seized on his refusal to give a guarantee, contrasting it with his pledge earlier this year that no working family would be worse off under laws to abolish workplace agreements.

Labor's proposed safety net includes 10 statutory conditions and 10 award conditions. Since its first draft was released in February, the Government has acceded to employer demands that workers must hold a job for at least 12 months before they can request flexible conditions such as working from home.

It also made changes to parental leave, which would give gay parents the same rights as the rest of the community. Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce suggested the move showed the Government was not genuine in its commitment to marriage.

"If you say you believe in marriage between a man and a woman, you have got to be fair dinkum about it, you can't draw a line in the sand somewhere around Western Australia," he said. "The best outcome for a child is a happy family made up of a man and a woman."

If the Coalition opposes the change, Labor would need the votes of the Greens, Family First's Steve Fielding and independent Nick Xenophon in the Senate. Australian Christian Lobby chairman Jim Wallace said the move was an "inevitable consequence" of the broader push to enshrine equality for same-sex couples.

Industrial lawyers said the Government's work standards left many questions unanswered. FCB partner Ben Gee described them as a "lovely statement of aspirational workplace rights" but "there aren't any penalties or sanctions".

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson said the standards would add "costs and inflexibility to business management" but were not extreme.

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said they did not go far enough and unions would push for improvements.

[Link: Original Article]

No comments: