||Issue No. 285||14 October 2005|
Howard’s Secret War
Interview: Under Fire
Politics: And the Winners Are ...
Economics: The Common Wealth
History: Walking for Justice
International: Deja Vu
Legal: The Rights Stuff
Review: That Cinderella Fella
Poetry: Is Howard Kidding?
The Locker Room
Hooray for Robots
Good Guy Done Bad
Greenfields Become Cotton Fields
John Howard's new workplace regime includes provisions for “greenfields” employers to write their own wages and conditions schedules.
The documents will last for 12 months but, already, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is pushing for that to be extended to five years.
At the same time, a range of prohibitions will be placed on unions trying to defend negotiated wages and conditions.
New laws will severely curtail their rights to bargain, enter workplaces, recruit, or engage in industrial action.
A whole series of existing conditions, agreed to by employers, will become prohibited matters and union members will be liable for fines of up to $33,000 if they even ask for them.
Prohibited matters will include equal pay for equal work; trade union training leave; paid meetings; prohibitions on AWAs; mandating union involvement in dispute resolution; and restrictions on the use of contractors or labour hire.
Rights of entry will be restricted, and eliminated, in the case of greenfields sites and workplaces where all employees are on AWAs.
Unions will be forced to undertake time-consuming postal ballots before engaging in "protected" industrial action, while employers will retain the right to lockout their workforces, or chosen individuals, with three days' notice.
Employers and third parties will be able to go to court to have "protected" actions called off.
The AIRC will also be able to halt legal stoppages if there is evidence of pattern bargaining (government code for equal pay claims across different sites), harm to a third party, or a union has failed to "genuinely" negotiate.
Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, said the regime would strip "any semblance of choice" from working Australians.
"This package is an extreme attack on freedom of choice and collective bargaining. The Prime Minister is using the power of the state to force people onto AWAs because they weren't choosing to take them up.
Besides the "greenfields" provision, existing businesses will be able to force all new employees onto AWAs, further undermining collective agreements.
Howard has also moved to strip protections from millions of Australians on state awards. When their agreements expire, they will only be entitled to five core conditions - the basic rate, personal leave, annual leave, unpaid maternity leave, and a theoretical 38-hour week.
With the impending scrapping of the no-disadvantage test, that measures AWAs against award entitlements, those conditions will also be the baseline for new individual contracts.
Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, has indicated even those protections will be rubbery. Annual leave can be halved to two weeks, and employers will be able to average out the 38-hour ordinary week over a full year.
Robertson questioned the value of legislating for ordinary hours, at all, when there is no provision for overtime, penalty or statutory holiday payments.
|Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue|