|Issue No 50||14 April 2000|
Employment National Workers Win CES Conditions
By Dermott Browne
The Federal Court has found that workers in Employment National should be covered by the awards and agreements that had applied to staff in the now-defunct Commonwealth Employment Service.
The CPSU says the ruling is a significant victory against the federal government's workplace laws.
"When the government closed down the CES in 1998, staff and work were transferred to a new government-owned company, Employment National", said Wendy Caird, National Secretary of the CPSU, the union representing these staff.
"But the government tried to deny that these workers had the same employment rights and pay rates as they had in the CES. The Federal Court has made a very important finding. By its decision, it will slow down the government in its attempts to lower wages and conditions by transferring business from one government organisation to another" Ms Caird said.
The CPSU has now successfully taken a number of similar cases to court and won them. "The government and Telstra are the chief offenders in trying to use organisational re-arrangements to reduce staff entitlements.
"The Courts are consistently finding that these manipulations don't reduce an employer's responsibility to pay their staff fairly. Yet the government is spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in fighting these cases", said Ms Caird.
Although the union has won the principle issue, workers won't immediately receive additional benefits. "There are still some issues we are looking at arising from the decision, but at the same time as the work was reorganised, the government also pushed staff onto individual contract arrangements (AWAs) which over-ride their award entitlements. So at this stage it seems they still won't receive fairness from these
laws, despite this finding. A separate Court action is challenging this misuse of AWAs
however, and our view is that using AWAs in this way is duress and is unlawful". Ms
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