||Issue No. 252||18 February 2005|
Wood for the Trees
Economics: Super Seduction
Interview: Bono and Me
Unions: The Eight Hour Day and the Holy Spirit
Technology: From Widgets to Digits
Education: Dumb and Dumber
Health: No Place for the Young
History: The Work-In That Changed a Nation
Review: Dare to Win
Poetry: Labor's Dreaming
The Locker Room
But Then Again
Families On the Rack
Employers First and the Business Council of Australia laid out the strategy, this week, with demands to slash weekend penalty payments, end wage cases for the low-paid, and strip back minimum award conditions.
Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, called the wish-list "a direct attack on families' living standards, security and the way our children are raised".
He was joined by ACTU chief Greg Combet and NSW Premier, Bob Carr, in highlighting how the employer agenda would impact on battling families.
In NSW, Employers First has applied to the IRC to chop penalty rates paid under the Clerical and Administrative Employees Award.
Female intensive call centres, shops, medical centres and offices would be hit by effective wage reductions of up to 25 percent.
Nationally, the Business Council of Australia (BCA), representing the country's largest 100 companies, is demanding that the Howard Government outlaw award negotiations on anything outside six limited matters.
Redundancy pay, normal hours of work, rest breaks, allowances, penalty rates and long service leave would be banished under a scenario limiting "allowable matters" to wages, leave and dispute resolution.
Where this would leave employer insistence on bargaining "flexibility" was not made clear.
The BCA is also calling for an end to minimum living wage cases before the Industrial Relations Commission.
The BCA says another round of workplace "reform" is necessary because "it is 10 years since the last one".
Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, stopped short of publicly endorsing the BCA proposals but conceded they represented "a good summary of the government's intentions".
Robertson accused the BCA of extremism that short-changed ordinary Australians and the society they live in.
"The BCA argue that fairness has no role in the workplace and the only reason business operates is to maximise profits," he said. "It is an extremist position which does away with the fiction of trickle down economics and replaces it, for the first time, with a vision of work totally devoid of morality.
"At the end of the day, the BCA agenda is for more contract work, longer working hours and less security for Australian families."
Meanwhile, arguments that wage rises must be backed by productivity gains have been shredded by Sydney Morning Herald economics editor, Ross Gittins.
In an article headlined "Porkies Used to Support Industrial Relations Reform", Gittins calls on economists to come clean with the public about "calumnies and distortions" used by politicians.
He was particularly damning of Treasurer Peter Costello's argument that another round of workplace "reform" was necessary to stop a surge in interest rates.
"It is possible Mr Costello spouts this economic illiteracy because he knows no better, being a barrister," Gittins writes. "But it's hard to believe Treasury would have failed to brief him adequately.
"No, it's more likely he's dreamt up his own bit of convenient bulldust in the belief it will make the nasty medicine of labour-market deregulation easier for the mug punters to swallow.
"Of course, there's a specific reason why hell would freeze over before the economists felt moved to point out the nonsense the treasurer is spouting on industrial relations.
"It's that almost all economists share the conviction of businesspeople and Liberal politicians that, if only we could get rid of unions and eliminate the evil of collective bargaining, so that bosses had the drop over each individual worker, this grossly unequal bargaining power would make the world a better place.
"So economists are prepared to ignore all the porkies on the grounds that the end justifies the means."
For the full Gittins argument visit: http://www.smh.com.au/news/Ross-Gittins/Porkies-used-to-back-industrialrelationsreform/2005/02/13/1108229855490.html
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