||Issue No. 203||14 November 2003|
Beyond the Workplace
Interview: Union for the Dispossessed
Unions: Joel's Law
National Focus: Spring Carnival
Bad Boss: Fina and Fiends
Industrial: The Price of War
Economics: Who's Got What
History: Containing Discontent
Review: An Honourable Wally
Poetry: The Colours of Discontent
Perils Of Pauline
Put A PM On The Barbie
Tom Holds Water
Hamberger Bad for Kids
Hamberger, whose office promotes the Federal Government’s workplace agenda, struck controversy this week when a teacher blew the whistle on his move to co-opt 2500 schools to the anti-union campaign.
In a letter to every public and private high school in Australia, Hamberger urged teachers to make students aware of his office's youth website which promotes non-union individual agreements.
A feature of the OEA's "youthserve" site is an AWA sales pitch from a Hobart supervisor entitled "Up Close and Personal With Justin Hill".
While Hill admits his job with Antartic Adventure is his first, he advises school leavers that an AWA "takes you one step further than the state or federal award and may contain clauses specific to your individual workplace".
Hill says, "as a young employee", he enjoys an "equal" relationship with management at Antarctic Adventure. He cites "development" as the biggest plus offered by an AWA.
"In our Australian Workplace Agreement, there is a career structure. I have had the opportunity to move up the ranks allowing me to get where I am today."
Workers Online can reveal that where Hill is today is down the road at Hobart's Corus Hotel, working under the terms and conditions of a state award.
When Workers Online rang Antarctic Adventure we were informed the company had gone "bust", closing its doors on October 10, and, under the terms of its AWAs, paid redundancy to only seven of the 19 predominantly young people it had employed.
Hill, the OEA's Australian Workplace Agreements advocate, told Workers Online the reasons for the closure had not been "entirely clear".
"I was one of the lucky ones," he said, "a lot of the others don't have jobs."
When asked what his redundancy terms had been for three years service with the company, he said, "I couldn't actually say".
Nimbin school teacher, Phil Roberts, alerted the public to Hamberger's co-option of the secondary school system, describing the Employment Advocate's letter as a blatant example of the Howard Government agenda "permeating schools".
The letter was sent to 2500 principals across Australia. It touted individual contracts, which have stripped conditions and as much as $10,000 a year off individual workers, as the future for school leavers.
Commentators say it signals Federal Government intention to concentrate their AWA efforts on youngsters who have not experienced union-organised workplaces.
The AWA take-up rate, running at less than five percent across the workforce, is highest amongst those aged 15-21 years where the Employment Advocate claims 17 percent penetration, principally in low-wage industries such as retailing, accommodation, cafes and restaurants.
The Federal Government sold AWAs on the basis of "choice" but Hamberger admits new employees can be forced to accept AWAs as a condition of employment.
In his letter to schools Hamberger wrote: "The OEA (Office of the Employment Advocate) is committed to ensuring that young people and those advising them have access to accurate and easy-to-read information about AWAs."
The letter only promotes AWAs and does not mention the prospect of union-negotiated agreements.
AWAs are opposed by the trade union movement, the Federal Opposition and state governments, including NSW and Victoria.
NSW Education Minister, Andrew Refshauge, told the Sydney Morning Herald, this week, it was "completely inappropriate" for Hamberger to have written directly to school principals promoting them.
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