||Issue No. 288||04 November 2005|
Interview: Public Defender
Legal: Craig's Story
Unions: Wrong Way, Go Back
Politics: Queue Jumping
History: Iron Heel
Economics: Waging War
International: Under Pressure
Poetry: Billy Negotiates An AWA
Review: A Pertinent Proposition
The Locker Room
Truth in Advertising
What a Woman!
It's Not Pretty
“Choice” By Decree
Nearly half a billion extra dollars have been set aside, over four years, to bring “Workchoices” to fruition with most of the spend earmarked for the Office of the Employment Advocate and an expanded Office of Workplace Services.
The OEA, created by John Howard and headed by hand-picked activists, will relieve the 100-year-old Industrial Relations Commission of agreement certification responsibilities.
All agreements, individual and collective, will have to be ticked off on by the OEA which has aggressively carried Canberra's ball against the CFMEU and collective bargaining.
The organisation, originally headed by Jonathan Hamberger and, more recently, Peter McIlwain will have the power to strike down any collective agreement that doesn't get the nod of its political masters.
At the same time, it will continue spending taxpayer funds on the promotion of secret, non-union, individual agreements.
Canberra moved to deny workers choice about AWAs, and to strip away the no-disadvantage test they had been measured against, after the OEA failed to convince Australians of their merit.
An aggressive eight-year campaign on behalf of AWAs, by the Office, had seen less than 2.5 percent of Australian workers take them up.
Even so, the OEA was pinged in court for failing to apply legal safeguards it was obliged to administer.
Last year, the Federal Court in Perth, heard evidence that the OEA had been registered fraudulent individual contracts that workers had neither seen nor signed.
The evidence was not contested but repeated efforts to have the matter investigated have drawn a blank.
Justice French called an admission by the Office's WA manager that it was registered AWAs outside the 21 days permitted by law "surprising".
He also heard evidence that the Office routinely accepted AWAs without signatures.
All those requirements have been removed by the new Workchoices legislation.
McIlwain told a Senate Committee hearing, last week, that his organisation would no longer be required to check on whether or not workers had genuinely consented to being covered by AWAs.
"I don't believe I will have that requirement placed on me," McIlwain said.
He also confirmed that his Office would no longer check the contents of AWAs and that they would be enforceable, immediately, an employer declared they were legitimate.
The new legislation, introduced to federal parliament this week, green lights the sacking of workers who refuse to sign individual contracts and continues the existing policy of allowing employers to refuse jobs to applicants who opt for collective coverage.
A new section of the law specifically states that employers do not apply duress "merely because the employer requires the employees to make an AWA with the employers as a condition of employment".
It will remain an offence, punishable by jail, however, for unionists to try to "coerce" an employer or employee to make a collective agreement.
Howard's expanded Office of Employment Services will take over policing and prosecuting the new laws from the IRC.
That office will have the power to prosecute unions and union officials who ask for prohibited matters, even those employers have already signed-off on, to be included in future collective agreements.
Such requests carry possible six months prison terms and the government has authorised enforcement agencies to prosecute them, with or without, the support of affected employers.
Government currently spends $86 million a year on IR agencies. Over the next four years, it will add $486 million to the figure, massively increasing workplace regulation.
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