Labor plan to overhaul and revamp industrial relations system in NSW

“When you add all these pieces together, it is a pretty bold re-imagining of the NSW industrial relations system.”

Labor says that if it wins government on March 23, it will establish a new Department of Industrial Relations and re-establish the industrial court of NSW. The Coalition government has an office of industrial relations within Treasury which Labor says “gets smaller and smaller every year”.

A special unit in the department would be created to deal with problems in the construction industry including the non-payment of subcontractors.

Labor would also move to convert temporary or casual staff in the public sector other than senior executive service staff to permanent employment after two years.

Mr Searle said a future Daley government would expand the powers of the NSW Anti-Slavery Commissioner to establish protocols for businesses to follow to stamp out modern slavery in supply chains.

Platform work would also be regulated under a new chapter Labor would insert into the NSW Industrial Relations Act. The laws would define a gig worker and online platforms they use to work.

The Industrial Relations Commission would be empowered to make orders for the gig workers to receive benefits including minimum rates of pay, superannuation, annual holidays and sick leave.

The gig workers would also be eligible for workers compensation if injured while working and online platforms would be required to provide insurance premiums for workers’ compensation.

Mr Searle said Labor would establish “a new mechanism to allow the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to quickly and fairly resolve disputes regarding gig workers”.

Unpaid internships lasting more than two weeks would be banned unless they are part of a structured learning program or recognised qualification. Internship brokers would need to be licensed and high administrative fees would be targeted.

Mr Searle said the NSW Industrial Relations Commission would be directed to set pay and conditions for internships of more than two weeks and not part of a structured learning experience on a similar basis to minimum conditions for apprentices and trainees.

New laws to protect all workers in the public and private sectors from physical and psychological bullying would be enacted and a charter of rights introduced to ensure injured workers were treated fairly by employers, Safe Work NSW and insurance companies.

Whistleblower protections would be extended to workers in the private sector “as far as constitutionally possible”.

“We will rewrite the current whistle-blower protection legislation for public servants,” Mr Searle said. “We will make it clear, easy to use with greater and better protections and extend that to the private sector as far as we can, recognising federal legislation.”

Anna Patty is Workplace Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald. She is a former Education Editor, State Political Reporter and Health Reporter. Her reports on inequity in schools funding led to the Gonski reforms and won her national awards. Her coverage of health exposed unnecessary patient deaths at Campbelltown Hospital and led to judicial and parliamentary inquiries. At The Times of London, she exposed flaws in international medical trials.

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