|Issue No 4||12 March 1999|
Viva, Lost Wages?
The Federal Government is set to use the failure of its legislation to spread youth wages across the economy as the constitutional and political trigger for an early election. But the impact of the success or failure of the legislation has been grossly overstated.
Vowing to reintroduce the legislation, which was rejected in the Senate this week, Prime Minister John Howard is poised to repeat the early election charade which spanned his first term in office.
That time it was the failure to get unfair dismissal laws watered down, this time it's his push to drive down wages for young people before the Australian Industrial Relations Commission has completed its inquiry into the issue.
The Howard Government will now use the blocking of the legislation as a political weapon to attack the opposition and minor parties for being anti-jobs, as well as a defensive tool whenever there is a bad set of unemployment figures.
The political campaign was in full swing this week with the Daily Telegraph running a front-page editorial pushing the orthodoxy that youth wages create jobs.
Totally absent in the debate is the fact that the Prime Minister's own Youth Advisory Council has rejected the notion of the abolition of junior rates on social grounds, as has the Productivity Commission on economic grounds.
Labor Council executive assistant Michael Gadiel, who prepared the unions' submission to the AIRC, said the debate over Youth Wages was being perverted in a quick-fix for youth unemployment.
"The reality is that the debate about youth wages is about how the wage system is structured. Unions are committed to ensuring that training is part of the equation for every young worker -- the shift to competency based standards would ensure this," Gadiel told Workers Online.
"The difference is that the competency principle is not discriminatory, whereas the age-based pay level clearly is.
"The debate is significant in these terms, but to suggest that either structure would have a radically different effect on the levels of pay young people earn and thus a radical impact on youth employment levels, is to just misunderstand the issue altogether."
"Because this is a complex issue, both sides of the youth wage debate have tended to hyperbole, grossly over-stating the impact of any change.
"The bottom line is that if the abolition of youth wages is the government's only strategy for addressing youth unemployment, then we are all in a lot of trouble."
Interview: Jennie George - Eyeing 2000
The ACTU President looks to the future and erects a few new signposts for her last 12 months in office and beyond.
Unions: Trade Unions Thinking Globally
How do you put people first in a global economy? That's the question for an international trade union conference in Sydney this week.
History: The Pioneers: Trade Unions Before 1850
Labour historian Greg Patmore looks at the early days of unions in Australia
Review: Opening Spaces For a New Labor
A new book by Sydney academic McKenzie Wark looks at how Labor must adapt to the popular culture.
Campaign Diary: On The Bus - A Tale Of Two Campaigns
As the State election campaign moves into full swing, Workers Online looks at how the management of the media by the two main parties is reflecting their strategies.
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LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSWURL: http://workers.labor.net.au/4/news3_youth.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005