||Issue No. 300||24 March 2006|
Of Milestones and Millstones
Interview: Organising In Cyberspace
Industrial: How Low Is Low
Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
Unions: Bad Medicine
History: Right Turn, Clyde
Economics: Long Division
International: Union Proud
Politics: Howard’s Sick Joke
Indigenous: The year of living dangerously
Review: Lights, Camera, Strike!
Culture: News Front
The Locker Room
Mr Andrews Decrees
Andrews has denied claims that a slew of WorkChoices regulations, released under cover of the Commonwealth Games, allow bosses to undercut the minimum wage.
But Sydney workplace barrister, Ian Latham, says any reading of Andrews' handiwork makes it clear that is exactly what is proposed.
"That's (Andrews' statement) wrong," Latham says. "The regulations make it clear you can earn less, over 12 months, than you should have been paid over any part of the 12 months.
"Specifically, they provide for the minimum wage to be averaged out over a year.
"The regulations use the example of fruit picking. Fruit pickers can be forced to sign an AWA that states they will be paid less than the minimum wage for the off-season.
"What happens if that person is dismissed, or leaves, at the end of the off-season when all their wages have been paid at less than the minimum rate?"
Latham says the Andrews defence fails on two counts - the concept of agreement, and the lack of any form of redress.
Nobody at a workplace of less than 100 people will be allowed to contest an unfair dismissal.
And, Latham contends, the worker would have been paid all entitlements, under an AWA written in those terms, anyway.
There is no payment floor, for this situation, contained in Andrews' Act or his regulations.
Latham warns there is a double-whammy for fruit pickers under "averaging out" provisions.
Another AWA, he says, might average earnings to protect the employer from meeting the highest rate over the peak season.
"What about the woman who works right through the high season and leaves, or is dismissed, at the start of the off season? Averaging has seen her paid less than what she should be entitled to for the most productive part of the year?
Latham says the regulations, and the seven-day time frame, before they control workplaces are a recipe for "chaos".
Political control of workplaces is the central them of 400 pages of WorkChoices regulations and explanations.
Andrews will personally monitor the wages and conditions of every Australian on a collective contract.
Under his regulations, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission must report to him, every week, on any workplace that applied to take industrial action and the Office of the Employment Advocate must report every three weeks on every collective agreement concluded.
The regulations confirm rank and file workers, unions and companies will all be liable for thousands of dollars in fines if they agree to anything Andrews decides to "prohibit".
Off limits already are agreed clauses on union recognition, rights of entry, delegate training and job security, including limits on causals and labour hire.
Fines of up to $6000 per worker, and $33,000 for a union official, can be imposed if any agreement contains a mechanism for an employee to contest an unjustified dismissal.
Andrews has also decreed that anything that doesn't apply to "all" persons covered by an agreement is "prohibited". Lawyers have already suggested that might invalidate maternity leave agreements.
Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, says the reporting provisions are significant.
"They are about direct political intervention in the workplace," he says.
"The clear message is that if agreements deliver better arrangements for workers, he will stop them occurring with the stroke of a pen.
"That is the only reason for including those requirements. He already has the AIRC and the Office of the Employment Advocate.
"This is about Kevin Andrews' determination to Big Brother."
|Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue|