||Issue No. 196||19 September 2003|
A Secret Country
Interview: Crowded Lives
Activists: Life With Brian
Industrial: National Focus
Unions: If These Walls Could Talk
Economics: Beating the Bastards
Media: Three Corners
History: The Brisbane Line
Trade: The Dumping Problem
Review: Frankie's Way
The Locker Room
Abbott Flags Move On Nurses
Australian Nurses Federation secretary, Jill Iliffe, said Abbott’s idea that country nurses be paid less than city colleagues was an insult to both her members and rural Australians.
At present, public hospital nurses negotiate pattern state-wide agreements but Abbott floated a plan for pay differentials at a recent industrial relations conference in Melbourne.
"Why not pay the nurses in a city hospital significantly more than a nurse in the country?" Abbott asked delegates at the Workforce conference.
"The point I am trying to make is one-size-fits-all rules don't work very well, even in the public sector," he said later.
Abbott reiterated his desire to spread key elements of his controversial building industry legislation, last week.
If the legislation proved successful, he told reporters on the day of its introduction to Federal Parliament, "only an idiot" wouldn't consider extending it to other workers.
Outlawing pattern bargaining is a the centre of a package which includes drastic restrictions on the right to take industrial action, and six-figure fines for unions, and individual members, found to be in breach of restrictive Coalition workplace laws.
ACTU secretary, Greg Combet, said Abbott's building industry proposals were a threat to all Australian workers.
"Tony Abbott is trying to force building workers into a legal straightjacket," he said. "The legislation would allow employees and unions to be sued into bankruptcy for being involved in normal collective bargaining to improve wages, conditions and safety.
"Mr Abbott said today he is considering similar legislation for other industries, but refused to say which ones. If the Government succeeds in removing the rights of employees in the building industry, then who will be next."
The ACTU rejected Abbott's claim that his Bill was a response to a building industry wracked by an industrial relations crisis. It said the following statistics painted a very different picture ...
- In May, 2003, the building industry employed 730,000 Australians, up 160,000 since 1997.
- Australian construction was ranked second, or better, for productivity, cost per square metre and time taken to complete projects, across 16 international studies.
- According to the Productivity Commission, Construction is the country's fourth most labour-efficient industry
- More time is lost to the industry due to injury and death than industrial action
- Over three years,industry unions have recovered more than $30 million in unpaid wages and lost entitlement
It also questioned the merit of controversial Cole Commission recommendations on which Abbott has based his legislation, pointing out that more than 90 percent of its hearing time was taken by anti-union witnesses.
The ACTU asked why the Commission hadn't found a single case of employer tax evasion, despite an ATO submission that the industry hid up to 40 percent of its annual income, and why it had called 633 employer witnesses against only 36 workers.
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