||Issue No. 355||01 December 2006|
Seven Year Itch
Interview: Flying High
Unions: TUF on Toll
Industrial: Forward to the Past
Economics: Debt and the Economy
Obituary: The Charlatanry of Milton Friedman
Environment: Low Voltage
Legal: The Fair Deal
Review: A Little History
Boss With a Heart
Contracts Out on Sole Traders
The ACTU says new law will give big business the upper hand in pay negotiations and fails to protect contractors who wish to bargain collectively.
"This law fails to help sub-contractors who are being pushed around by big companies," ACTU president Sharan Burrow says.
For example, more than 100 independent contractors working as telephone technicians in regional NSW for Telstra are facing cuts of between 25% and 50% to their contract pay rates as well as 'fines' for minor defects that are putting their incomes at risk.
The technicians are employed as sub-contractors for Downer Engineering but carry out the majority of their work on residential and business telephone lines for Telstra.
They say they cannot afford to accept most country work under the new contract rates which mean a cut in the rate of pay for repairing most rural telephone faults in NSW from $105 to $80 - a 24% pay cut.
Overall, Telstra's pay cuts could amount to as much as $25,000 less pay for the sub-contractors in a year.
But under their current terms of employment the 'subbies' have no capacity to negotiate directly with Telstra for decent contract rates and their legal rights to bargain collectively are severely limited.
"It is wrong for companies like Telstra to unilaterally decide on the pay rates for sub-contractors," says Burrow.
Unions are also concerned that the proposed new 'independent contractor' law will fail to prevent employers from pushing more workers into sham contracting arrangements where employees miss out on award rates of pay, annual leave, superannuation, workers compensation and other basic entitlements.
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