The Berejiklian Government’s Mutual Recognition (NSW) Amendment Bill was amended in the state’s upper house after submissions by the AWU.
Unchanged, the Bill would have given complete power to Morrison Government legislation allowing workers registered or licensed for an occupation in one state or territory to be considered automatically registered or licensed in a different jurisdiction, but with no additional checks.
AWU National Secretary Dan Walton said the move to make qualifications more portable made sense, but only if the system was implemented safely.
“The AWU takes the health and safety of our members very seriously,” Mr Walton said.
“The majority of AWU members have undertaken the necessary careful training to develop their craft to the standards set in each state and territory.
“Automatic mutual recognition of all trade qualifications in NSW would have significantly increased the safety risks to our members and the communities they work in.
“The necessary work to develop, implement and harmonise standards across jurisdictions has just not been done.”
Amendments to the Bill mean the new mutual recognition laws will not apply areas of concern to AWU members – in mining, and building, maintenance and construction – but also in teaching, electrical work or diesel mechanics.
While for some occupations the introduction of the proposed scheme could be beneficial, for others there were significant differences across states, where occupations were not like-for-like, especially across high-risk trades.
The legislation was sent to an upper house committee for examination, where it became apparent that significant differences between licences and registrations state to state would render workers unable to operate safely or effectively without further testing and training in a number of high-risk trades.
Mr Walton said the licensing system in NSW and other states underpinned industry safety standards and provided a core element to the ability of regulators to assess compliance with safety and other requirements.
“The acceptance of automatic mutual recognition in NSW should be frozen until it can be demonstrated that there is no risk of tradespeople licensed interstate avoiding safety regulation or enforcement for work below NSW standards, and until national standards for each relevant trade are developed.”
The AWU will work with other unions to ensure that other governments follow suit on avoiding this race to the bottom on safety and licensing requirements.