Gillard frustrates club boss

ROB Smith wanted to know if his staff would be disadvantaged by changes to workplace laws when Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard addressed a conference of club managers in Tweed Heads yesterday.

But after listening for 20 minutes Mr Smith was still in the dark, as the industrial relations minister failed to take any questions.

"Ms Gillard was invited to%clarify a few concerns the delegates have about changes to the industrial relations laws," said the Twin Towns Services Club general manager. "But she left with none of us knowing what system we will have to work with for the next 18 months until the new system comes into effect in 2010, because she did not take any questions."

Mr Smith, who was the only Tweed manager at the annual RSL and Services Club National Conference, attended by 202 delegates from Queensland, Victoria, NSW, Tasmania and South Australia, said club managers needed to know there was still flexibility in the way they hired staff, to not only plan for the future, but to attract and retain quality employees. "A part of the plan is to introduce a single award for all areas of the hospitality industry, but traditionally club employees have been a higher-paid sector," he said.

"We don't know if the new award will be based on an average of all awards, or if it will disadvantage our staff that are paid more, or provide the flexibility we require."

A busy schedule was blamed for Ms Gillard being unable to stay longer at the conference.

Ms Gillard told delegates Labor's intention has "never been to tilt the balance unfairly in the opposite direction to WorkChoices".

"It is to put the workplace relations pendulum where it should be -- in the middle.

"Australia's service clubs are all about recognising that quintessential Australian concept of a 'fair go' -- our workplace relations reforms are based on the same concept."

Hospitality industry representatives would take part in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission's public consultations about award modernisation next month, Ms Gillard said.

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