||Issue No. 309||02 June 2006|
When the Truth Hurts
Interview: Rock Solid
Industrial: Eight Simple Rules for Employing My Teenage Daughter
Politics: The Johnnie Code
Energy: Fission Fantasies
History: All The Way With Clarrie O'Shea
International: Closer to Home
Economics: Taking the Fizz
Unions: Stronger Together
Review: Montezuma's Revenge
Poetry: Fair Go Gone
The Locker Room
When the Truth Hurts
No, there's been no outbreak of truth by the Howard Government, just the combined contributions of bureaucrats before a Senate committee, a newly appointed commissioner before Tony Jones and the Office of Workplace Services before the Cowra abattoir gets on with laying into its workforce.
Strike One: Senate Estimates Committee, late Tuesday night, the Employment Advocate Peter McIlwaine - under oath - conceded that AWAs were stripping away at basic work rights. Of a sample of 250 AWAs - the OEA doesn't bother looking at them all - 64 percent removed leave loadings, 63 percent removed penalty rates, 52 percent removed shiftwork loadings and 16 percent excluded all of those conditions. These are the same conditions that the government spent millions telling us would be 'protected by law'. If so, this law is truly an ass.
Strike Two: New Fair Pay Commissioner Ian Harper fronts Lateline. Harper's problem is that he is all together too honest for a Howard Government crony. Under heavy questioning, the man who has previously written that sweatshop wages were good for the American economy because they created a culture of competition, conceded that the minimum wage could be reduced in real terms, something the government has been at pains to reassure us would never be the case.
Strike Three: The leaked report from the Office of Workplace Services finds that the infamous sacking of the Cowra Abattoir workers for 'operational reasons' - namely to rehire them for $200 per week less - is entirely within the new laws. Despite the hand-wringing from Minister Andrews when the case shot to national attention in the first week of WorkChoices, the OWS has given the tactics the legal tick-off.
As Workers Online reveals this week, the Cowra abattoir workers are now back at the negotiating table as the employer tries to extract another pay cut - through a collective agreement at this stage- but with the OWS report sitting in the corner like an elephant, the workers knowing that when push comes to shove, they can be legally sacked for 'operational reasons. The dynamics of bargaining are irrevocably changed.
And where is the government? Continuing to dissemble in Federal Parliament, where the Prime Minister this week reverted to attacks on comments made by Kim Beazley in 1993 to justify his attack on low pay. This is the Parliamentary equivalent to waving the white flag.
Officially, the government response case for WorkChoices is being warehoused - more than five million glossy pamphlets in cold storage - after the government realised that a $55 million advertising spin only succeeded in making the laws even less popular.
The IR debate is dead, the government case buried - hoisted on its own petard - their only hope is to shift national attention away from the workplace and hope the punters lose interest - hence tax cuts, nuclear energy and any other moral panic that comes to hand.
For the Australian workforce and the union movement, in particular, vindication is cold comfort - now that we know how nasty these laws are going to be the hard work of protecting workers rights in a system so tilted towards the bosses begins. Now.
We've said it before. This has never been a scare campaign. It's a truth campaign. It's just the truth is scary.
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