The Guardian 7 December, 2005

Barnaby Grinch steals Christmas

Barnaby Joyce has done a Grinch and stolen Christmas from Australian workers, delivering bosses all the excuses they need to force people to work on public holidays. If that wasn’t enough, his actions slam the door on speedy redress for people who feel they might still have been dudded. Where an employer plays hardball, people wrongly denied time with their families can only gain redress through expensive court action.

Joyce used his crucial Senate vote to bring the axe down on State and Federal Industrial Relations Commissions as affordable avenues for the resolution of any workplace dispute.

The Queensland National’s bid to "save Christmas" ended in farce when he green-lighted a dozen criteria for determining whether or not it was "reasonable" to refuse work on Christmas Day, Anzac Day, Good Friday or four other national statutory holidays.

Only two of those reasons go to the worker’s situation — "the employee’s reasons for refusing the request" and "the employee’s personal circumstances (including family responsibilities)".

Most of the rest are outs business can use to refuse an employee’s wish for a day off. These include:

  • the nature of the work performed;

  • the nature of the employer’s workplace or enterprise (including its operational requirements);

  • whether an agreement, award, industrial instrument, contract, written guideline or policy "contemplates" that the employer "might" require work on public holidays;

  • whether an employee could reasonably expect the employer "might" require work on public holidays;

  • the amount of notice given by the employer;

  • the amount of notice given by the employee in refusing to work;

  • whether an emergency or other unforeseen circumstances are involved.

    Joyce, who earlier this year dogged on an election promise not to support the sale of the public’s 51 percent holding in Telstra, turned his back on a petition signed by more than 80,000 workers, in the space of three days, to back big-business’ WorkChoices agenda.

    In fact, when he spoke in Parliament on the issue for the first time, last week, he sounded more aggressively anti-worker than many Liberals.

    "The unrepresentative and bullying days of unions are over and the funding mechanism for the Australian Labor Party is ending", Joyce crowed.

    "The whole farce of open ballots, antagonisation (sic) and standovers at the workplace is a dead or dying art form and it is great to preside over the end of those bitter days."

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