Workers Online
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  Issue No 2 Official Organ of LaborNet 26 February 1999  





Employment Advocate Dines Out, But Not A Sausage For Workers

By Peter Lewis

Zero, zip, zilch, SFA -- these are some of the words that describe the Employment Advocate's enforcement activities in the interests of trade union members in its first two years of business.

As the Employment Advocate put on a ritzy lunch this week at a trendy Sydney cafe to celebrate its 50,000th individual contract, it confirmed that the rights of trade union members was not on its menu.

Since being established by the Howard Government, the Advocate has failed to launch a single prosecution on behalf of a union member despite promises before the 1996 that it would be the new champion for ordinary workers.

To date the Employment Advocate has launched just three prosecutions -- two unsuccessful actions against trade unions and one against an employer who discriminated against an employee for contacting the Advocate, itself.

When asked for statistics on its operations, an Employment Advocate spokeswoman released the following information:

- 50 employers have been refused AWAs, not because they failed the no disadvantage test, but for procedural reasons.

- the Advocate had received 135 complaints about the process of making AWA out of 1,010 compliance complaints in total. Most of these were freedom association issues -- about 500 complaints in all.

- and 65 per cent of freedom of association complaints had been made by employees, 30 per cent by employers and five per cent by trade unions.

Confirming that none of the complaints by trade unions had led to legal action, the spokeswoman said the Advocate preferred to mediate complaints.

But unions believe the lack of adequate enforcement by the Employment Advocate is giving the green light to employers seeking to de-unionise their workforce.

They are also concerned that the State Coalition plans raising a similar model as part of their hardline industrial relations agenda that they will take to the upcoming election.

Labor Council secretary Michael Costa said the failure to prosecute was surprising, given some of the examples of discrimination against union members which have come to light over the past two years.

The Transport Workers Union, for example, had raised the case of Russell Jeffreiss, an Orange truck driver who was sacked for refusing to sign an AWA.

"How this type of incident can be settled by mediation defies belief," Costa told Workers Online.

"Australian Workplace Agreements are being used as a tool by employers and their highly-paid advisers who want to de-unionise their workforce.

"With an inactive Employment Advocate and a disempowered Industrial Relations Commission, workers are really exposed to bullying employers."


*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 2 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Checking the Spellar
We talk to a former union official who is now a minister in the Blair Government about the difficult relationship between New Labour and the labour movement.
*  Unions: Working It Out
NSW trade unions have embraced a movement-wide campaign to deal with the vexed issue of ensuring workers have a life.
*  History: Remembering The Eveleigh Railway Workshops
The Eveleigh railway yards have a rich history which your average commuter would never imagine.
*  Review: Opening Tanner's Australia
Lindsay Tanner's new book offers a frank and forthright view of the future for Australia.
*  Campaign Diary: Carr And The Unions
No-one would accuse the Premier and the labour movement of being bossum buddies, but their fortunes are inextricably linked.

»  Revealed: Reith Defies Own Pollster To Bash Unions
»  What's Going Down at Gordonstone?
»  VSU To Stop The Music
»  Employment Advocate Dines Out, But Not A Sausage For Workers
»  Union Interpreter Translates The Word “Exploit”
»  How Much Can A Koala Bear?
»  Botsman Shifts North To Tame The Rednecks

»  Guest Report
»  Sport
»  Trades Hall
»  Piers Watch

Letters to the editor
»  No Fan of Piers
»  Don't Be Glib
»  EMILY's List International Women's Day bash

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