|Issue No 22||16 July 1999|
Deirdre Mahoney on Women, Reith and an Unwanted Wave
Australian women and the community as a whole must join forces now to avoid being forced down the path of industrial laws which have devastated New Zealand and Western Australia, a group of 60 union women representatives heard in Sydney this week.
Women at the briefing, held by the ACTU and the Women's Committee of the Labor Council of NSW, heard from West Australian ACTU member Helen Creed, who has seen firsthand the effects of changes like those Small Business Minister Peter Reith wants to introduce in his second round of industrial laws. Creed, WA secretary of the LHMU, told reps women were now making only 77% of men's wages compared to around 85% before WA embarked on rolling back wages and conditions.
ACTU president Jennie George told the reps the gender gap had already widened nationally in the two years since Reith's laws had started, particularly in hospitality. She urged women to act now to contribute to the Senate inquiry initiated by the Democrats into the effects of the laws.
George said that one million women depended solely on the award system for their wages. This would be further eroded with Reith's plans to strip protections including super, accident makeup pay, classification structures, transfer entitlements, and paid maternity and extra sick leave from awards.
George said even more frightening was the fact that Reith was threatening holding off on safety net adjustments until these conditions had been handed over, and warned: "What you will lose is much more than what you will gain."
She also spoke about NZ, stressing that deregulation did not make more jobs, did not increase pay and, coupled with the GST, meant economic and social disaster ahead.
The legislation, to be discussed in the next session of Federal Parliament, in August, aims to obliterate unions by squeezing both employers and vulnerable members. A new definition of "closed shop" would see the Employment Advocate investigating any workplace where union membership was more than 60%, looking for signs of coercion. This could range from things like employers allowing the union to be present for inductions, or just by supporting the unions through a friendly message.
Another move, to only let employers have unions in the workplace when invited by a member, and then only in a special segregated room, would undoubtedly have the effect of making many women scared to come forward.
ACTU industrial officer Linda Rubenstein said Reith's closed shop legislation was specifically aiming at women in the industries where membership was concentrated - retail and finance, and possibly also nursing and teaching. She said the intent was to intimidate people psychologically by making them feel there's something "not quite legal" in being a union member, if a workplace gets investigated for having "too many" members.
Women were also the targets in unfair dismissal legislation, which only applied in businesses where more than 15 people worked and facing having to put up costs before a case progressed, with the possible outcome of having costs awarded against them.
Labor MP Jenny Macklin also spoke at the briefing, which was chaired by Labor Council vice-president (and NSW Nurses' Association secretary) Sam Moait. Labor Council announced that Federal Opposition leader Kim Beazley will launch the ALP's campaign against the second wave at Bronte Park at 12.30pm on Sunday, 8 August.
Interview: You’ve Got To Be Kidding!
British legal academic Dr Keith Ewing can’t believe we’re still debating whether workers’ entitlements should be protected.
Unions: The Shaw Plan
Jeff Shaw unveils his national plan to protect workers entitlements.
History: The Case of the Packer Lift
An industrial history of Australian Consolidated Press looks into the media empire.
International: Crisis in Ecuador
An urgent appeal for solidarity with the popular uprising in Ecuador.
Environment: It's In The Genes
Did you eat genetically modified food today? Add your voice to label all gene tech foods campaign.
Review: Around the Grounds
Labor Council's Don Machiatto goes in search of the perfect cup of coffee.
Labour Review: What's New at the Information Centre
Read the latest issue of Labour Review, a resource for trade union officials.
Satire: Darth Reith's Workplace Relations (Phantom Menace) Bill
Workers have been positively thrilled by the prospect of less pay, no sick leave.
View entire latest issue
© 1999-2000 Labor Council of NSW
LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSWURL: http://workers.labor.net.au/22/c_tradeshall_dee.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005