||Issue No. 273||22 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
Keep the Faith
Life on a Low Wage
Seeing the Trees For the Wood
Carnival Comes to Town
Centrelink to Cheat Workers
A Centrelink staffer told Workers Online, on condition of anonymity, that job seekers who say no to such AWAs will be ‘breached’ – leading to cuts in their social security payments.
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson has challenged Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews to give a public assurance he won't use the unemployed to grass cut workers' entitlements.
Kevin Andrews needs to come clean with the public," Robertson said. "We don't want double-speak, we want a straight answer - will his government refuse unemployment benefits to people who turn down AWAs that undercut registered, legal agreements?"
The federal government is pushing secret individual agreements (AWAs) in preference to collective agreements.
It has already legislated to allow employers to force new workers to sign AWAs, as a condition of employment, and has announced its intention to scrub the No Disadvantage Test that measures them against existing awards.
Even, under that system, Robertson said, its Office of the Employment Advocate had rubber-stamped individual contracts that undercut, or eliminated, conditions included in legally-registered agreements.
Under Andrews' proposed new system, AWAs will be legitimate if they meet five minimum standards which do not include penalty rates or overtime, and allow annual holiday entitlements to be slashed to two weeks.
Simultaneously, Canberra has announced its intention to get tough on beneficiaries by cutting entitlements to those who do not accept paid employment.
Robertson said withholding benefits from Australians who refused to undercut negotiated agreements would be a "significant step" towards the US system, based on a growing class of people referred to as the "working poor".
"This Minister keeps making contradictory statements, ducking and weaving, and then accusing us of misleading the public," Robertson said.
"It's time he told the truth, so Australians can make up their own minds, based on the facts."
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