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Medical Scientists IR standoff highlights flaws in Fair Work Bill

An industrial dispute in regional Victoria highlights the failures of the Government's Fair Work Bill, say the Australian Greens.

"It is worrying to see our predictions for the Fair Work Act come true, with workers left in bargaining limbo - in this case affecting scientists and technicians providing pathology services in regional Victoria," said Australian Greens industrial relations spokesperson Senator Rachel Siewert.

"I understand the scientists have been bargaining with their employer for more than 18 months and recently took protected industrial action in support of their claims. In response the company locked out the workers for 7 days. The day before they were due to return to work, the employers locked out 22 of the around 200 employees for 7 weeks."

"This case highlights two key flaws in the Fair Work Act - the ability of employers to lock out parts of the workforce for large periods of time, and the in-ability to get these sorts of protracted disputes resolved by an independent tribunal."

"It is grossly disproportionate for employers to be able to lock out only parts of their workforce for lengthy periods of time, with little notice. Such actions place enormous pressure on those employees singled out by the employers," said Senator Siewert.

"The continuation in the Fair Work Bill of the significant shift under Work Choices (from a previous framework focused on resolving disputes to a complex and complicated series of laws to be enforced) means that employees such as these are left with few options to fairly resolve bargaining disputes. As I mentioned during the debate on the Fair Work Bill, this shift in our workplace laws will have long lasting consequences for our society."

"This was a fundamental issue raised by the Greens in the debate surrounding the introduction of the Bill - an issue that has been largely ignored by the Labor Government."

"Australia voted at the last election for an end to Work Choices. The Rudd Government's solution does little to restore genuine fairness and equality in workplace bargaining," she concluded.

For more information or media inquiries, please call Tim Norton on 0418 401 180

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