||Issue No. 271||08 July 2005|
Interview: Battle Stations
Unions: The Workers, United
Politics: The Lost Weekend
Industrial: Truth or Dare
History: A Class Act
Economics: The Numbers Game
International: Blonde Ambition
Training: The Trade Off
Review: Bore of the Worlds
Poetry: The Beaters Medley
The Locker Room
Do It Yourself?
Vale the Eight Hour Day
The vision thing
Campaign Pushes Right Buttons
It’s Time to Punt the PM
Bob Each Way
Hits the Mark
Reforms not an Erosion
OEA Invokes Sgt Schultz
On the condition of anonymity, he said last week, that "around 85-90 percent" of new AWAs coming across the Advocate’s desk are for new starters.
OEA press flak, Bonnie Laxton-Blinkhorn, says the Office knows nothing of the claim which goes to the heart of the Prime Minister's "freedom of choice" argument.
New starters can be forced to sign an AWA (Australian Workplace Agreement) as a condition of employment.
"We don't collect that information, it's not in our reporting system," she told Workers Online. "If we don't collect that information, there is certainly nobody else that would.
"It's not that we don't have the capability. It's just that we don't do it."
When Workers Online asked her to use the Office's capability to check the validity of the allegation, she said it would be "impossible".
Workers Online's source established his credibility, last year, when he outed the Employment Advocate for green-lighting batches of AWAs before checking they conformed to the government's minimum-standards, "no disadvantage" test.
His claim was tested, and vindicated, by subsequent court proceedings in Western Australia.
Workers Online is aware of dozens of AWAs that have passed the Advocate's no-disadvantage test, despite ripping negotiated conditions and penalty rates away from employees.
When the Advocate forms the view an AWA does not pass his test, the filing employer is given three options - challenge the ruling in the IRC; put up a public-interest argument; or undertake to increase the rates.
Our source at the Office says the proportion of AWAs requiring such undertakings has jumped from "around five percent to around 12 to 13 percent", since last year.
AWAs, used by employers to undermine collective contracts, remove penalty rates and cut earnings, are at the heart of the Prime Minister's plan to hold down the living standards of Australian families.
Howard and Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, have spun a "freedom of choice" line, arguing AWAs give workers the right to choose a "flexible individual contract" over a collective agreement. But their legislation allows new starters to be forced onto AWAs as a condition of employment.
They set up the Office of the Employment Advocate and funded it to promote AWAs at the expense of collective agreements.
The Office has done that aggressively, sparing employers the expense of drafting their own documents by preparing pattern AWAs and offering them to groups of companies as "template" agreements.
Workers Online has learned the Office has cut back on marketing recently, confident there will be a flood of employers taking up AWAs after Howard's IR changes require them to meet only four or five legislated, minimum community standards.
Part of the Office's sales drive has been getting high-profile "AWA Ambassadors", such as Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, to pitch their merits to other employers. Last month, the OEA flew ambassadors around the country, business class, on a promotional tour.
Our source says at least two official AWA Ambassadors file individual contracts that fail to meet the no disadvantage test and require "undertakings" before they are okayed.
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