||Issue No. 259||15 April 2005|
Interview: [email protected]
Unions: State of the Union
Industrial: Fashion Accessories
Legal: Leg Before Picket
Politics: Business Welfare Brats
Health: Cannabis Controversy
Economics: Debt, Deficit, Downturn
History: Politics In The Pubs
Review: Three Bob's Worth
Poetry: Do The Slowly Chokie
The Locker Room
Freedom From Choice
The about-face became effective from April 4, provoking allegations of unfairness and contravention of core public service values.
Former departmental secretary, Paddy Gourlay, slammed the new policy as an assault on merit selection.
Writing for the Canberra Times, Gourlay accused activist DEWR secretary, Dr Peter Boxall, of compromising efficiency by "allowing a factor unrelated to a person's relative merit and ability to determine who gets in and who does not."
Gourlay called for action from the Public Service Commissioner.
CPSU representative, Lisa Newman, says the policy is "fundamentally unfair".
"We work with AWAs and people who sign them," she said, "but the bottom line should be that people have a choice between individual contracts and collective agreements.
"When government began promoting AWAs they were sold on 'choice', now that rhetoric has gone out the window."
The Howard Government introduced AWAs in a bid to slash collective workplace strength and drive down wages and conditions.
It set up a whole new section of DEWR, the Office of the Employment Advocate, to promote and spread them.
Within the public service, the drive has been particularly aggressive.
They have been championed by a succession of Workplace Relations Ministers who have steadily whittled away safeguards to make them more employer-friendly and easier to register.
The Employment Advocate has even taken to promoting pattern AWAs, while government is moving to outlaw pattern collective agreements.
Yet, the take-up rate across industry, has failed to break the three percent barrier and still runs at less than nine percent in the public service where, as a condition of employment, whole levels of senior officers are bound to sign AWAs.
Newman says no serving APS member can be legally coerced into signing an AWA but "given this summersault" there are concerns about that safeguard, as well.
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