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  Issue No 83 Official Organ of LaborNet 09 February 2001  

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Trades Hall

Neale Towart's Labour Review


The Man with the Answers is back for another year of industrial relations mayhem and madness.

 
 

Flexibility and Stretching Rights: the No Disadvantage Test in Enterprise Bargaining by Omar Merlo

Issues affecting the efficacy of the No Disadvantage Test (NDT) as a protective mechanism for employees are discussed. These include:

· The shrinkage of the safety net

· The role of the Employment Advocate

· The erosion of community standards

· The use of awards as a benchmark for the test

· The relative ease of approval of agreements

· The public interest test for AWAs

· The role of unions

The author concludes that the NDT does not achieve its intended purpose and that its original objectives have been altered. The NDT fails to deliver employee protection, allowing employers to achieve flexibility at the expense of equitable and fair conditions of employment.

(Australian Journal of Labour Law; vol. 13, no. 3, December 2000)

'Monday I've Got Friday on My Mind': Working Time in the Hospitality Industry by Alison Barnes and Diane Fieldes

Some suggest that the drive to flexible working hours is mutually beneficial to employers and employees. This study analyses the impacts on the award simplification decision in the hospitality industry award in 1998.

The study demonstrates that award simplification and enterprise bargaining in the sector have not produced a successful compromise between the needs of employers and employees. Flexibility has been a benefit to employers alone. The direction of working time reorganisation is determined by the relative bargaining strengths of the parties. The hospitality industry has long been a low wage sector, and the nature of the sector has meant that union strength has been limited. This is reflected in the worsened position of employees in the terms of flexible hours.

(Journal of Industrial Relations; vol. 42, no. 4, December 2000)

Kennett's Industrial Relations Legacy: the Impact of Deregulation on Earnings in Victoria by Ian Watson

What is the connection between labour market deregulation and earnings inequality? Watson uses Victoria as an empirical study using recent workplace survey data. A low wage sector emerged in Victoria during the 1990s, concentrated around Schedule 1A (of the Commonwealth Workplace Relations Act 1996 that effectively replaced Victoria's own industrial legislation). Workers who failed to gain coverage under federal jurisdiction had wages and conditions determined by minimalist legislation provisions and workplace "bargaining".

Earnings dispersal is shown to be much greater for this group of employees. Schedule 1A coverage was characterised by a large clump of low-wage workers with inferior employment benefits.

Comparisons between NSW and Victoria reflect badly on Victoria, as do national comparisons.

http://econ.usyd.edu.au/acirrt/downloads/wp62.pdf

(ACIRRT Working Paper no. 62; January 2001)

Casual Rights Case

A summary of the outcome of the casual rights case run by the AMWU is on their website at http://www.amwu.asn.au/what/current/showcampaign.php3?aid=709

The AIRC ruled that casuals should automatically be granted permanency after 6 months regular and systematic employment. This need not be continuous over the six months but merely systematic (ie called on regularly on a similar basis over the time). Also the casual loading was increased from 20 to 25%, minimum engagement was set at 4 hours.

http://www.amwu.asn.au

Casualisation: What Is The Debate We Should Be Having? by Sharan Burrow

Handing down its decision in the AMWU's recent casual rights case, the Industrial Relations Commission observed that excessive and inappropriate use of casuals in Australia had reached a point where casual jobs as the exception may soon subvert permanent jobs as the norm.

The decision delivered casual workers in the metal industry increased penalty rates, improved minimum start times and access to the option of permanent employment after 6 months service. A move that even Australian Industry Group chief executive Bob Herbert described as 'reasonable in the circumstances.

Unions want to ensure that casual employment is not abused. Casual employment should not continue to be indiscriminately used by employers to deny long-term employees access to the most basic employment certainty and decent employment rights.

During his time as Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith actively undermined the rights of casual workers. He rejected a Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission recommendation that the Government legislate to give maternity leave rights to casual workers and opposed efforts by unions to improve the rights of casual workers in the Industrial Relations Commission, including the recent AMWU metal award case.

As unions step up their campaign for casual workers this year, the challenge for Tony Abbott will be to break with his predecessors appalling record and support decent job certainty and rights for Australia's casual workers.

http://www.workplaceinfo.com.au/questions/casuals_burrow.htm

The Protection of Employee Entitlements in the Event of Employer Insolvency: Australian Initiatives in the Light of International Models by Robbie Campo

Tony Abbott's solution is for employees to use their holidays up before employers go broke. A very thoughtful solution don't you think? Campo examines recent initiatives in Australia towards dealing with the problem, including Reith's discussion paper on the issue. Measures existing in the European Community and Canada are also considered, and ILO recommendations for protections. The article demonstrates that Australian responses based on the Corporations Law are inadequate. The Canadian model allowing workers to take direct proceedings against directors is seen as a good example. Tightening the Corporations Law to provide effective remedies against unethical directors may provide an avenue for recovery. The Canadian and European models show that the current lack of protection for workers need not continue.

(Australian Journal of Labour Law; vol. 13, no. 3, December 2000)

National Competitiveness and the Subordination of Labour: an Australian policy study by Dick Bryan

Bryan looks at the notions of competition and national competitiveness in a globalised economy. He points out the logical slides in the rhetoric about national competition when the competition is really taking place between firms, not nation states. The notion of competitiveness has been the organising cry of national policies since the mid 1980s, and this focus has swamped all other considerations. The connection between international competitiveness and wages policy in Australia was made explicit by Keating as Treasurer in the mid 1980s, with a commitment to maintaining real wages being abandoned even in the rhetoric by 1987. The shift to deregulation in the finance sector was accompanied by the introduction of enterprise bargaining, which supposedly linked any wage increase to productivity increases. By 1996, even this link was gone with reserve bank governor Mcfarlane emphasising the need for wage restraint, despite any productivity boosts.

This is the crux of the problem. The view that we can be international competitive in high tech, clever industries rather than tech low wage industries is shattered by ther approach of international competition because everyone has been increasing productivity in high tech industries. So competitiveness is being pursued by means other than productivity improvements, ie by reducing wages. Wages are not keeping pace with the increase in working hours and the increases in productivity. The race to the top (high tech high wages) has the same outcomes as the race to the bottom, low tech low wages - lower wages, longer hours.

The notion of a more competitive nation is pursued at a policy level, even though it is companies and workers who do the actually competing. Thus the nationalism involved in promoting this agenda subordinates all other concerns (social justice) to the competition rhetoric. Bryan is pessimistic about labour's changes of finding a way out of this cul de sac.

(Labour & Industry; vol. 11, no. 2, December 2000)

Trade Apprenticeships in the Australian Construction Industry by Phil Toner

During the latter half of the 1990s there has been a significant reduction in construction industry apprentice intakes. Factors involved in this decline include:

· A reduction in the average firm size in the private construction industry and a large increase in their share of total construction employment

· A large increase in the employment share of specialist subcontractors

· The growth of outsourcing and labour hire employment

· Corporatisation and privatisation of government utilities

· Possible substitution of traineeships for traditional apprenticeships

(Labour & Industry; vol. 11, no. 2, December 2000)


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*   Issue 83 contents

In this issue
Features
*  Interview: Dispatch from Davos
ACTU President Shahran Burrow reports back on the trade union movement’s presence at last week’s meeting of the heavyweights of global capital.
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*  Unions: After the Gold Rush
Recent mass sackings at high-profile e-businesses are beginning to expose the flimsiness of the ‘jobs for all’ predictions made on behalf of the sector.
*
*  Economics: The Other Davos
While the world’s business leaders met in Davos, a very different gathering was taking place in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Pat Ranald was there.
*
*  Politics: While We Were Snoozing
As we lay in our banana chair through summer the political world kept turning with a new man in the White House. Here’s what we missed while we were off the air.
*
*  History: Federation Day, 1901
One hundred years after Australia became a nation, Ralph Sawyer relives the original Federation Day through the eyes of Billy Hughes.
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*  International: Burma: The Struggle Continues
As the internatinal community moves to bring Burma to account, APHEDA - Union Aid Abroad is working on the ground.
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*  Review: Inside the Journopolis
In his new book, Rob Johnson brings the infamous Cash for Comment Affair to life.
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*  Satire: Families Demand Longer Work Hours
A new report confirms the long held suspicion that employees who reduce their workload to spend more time with their spouse and children just end up annoying their families even more.
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News
»  Union Busters Target Call Centres
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»  Workers Take Message to World Bank
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»  Korean Worker Bashed for Questioning Wages
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»  Steelworkers Draw The Line
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»  Sartor Thanks Workers for Games by Outsourcing Jobs
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»  Outworkers Still Waiting for Action of Sweatshops
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»  Workers Casualties in Wentworth Fire Sale
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»  Fantastic Win for Furniture Workers
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»  Billions Spent on Mine Takeovers
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»  No Guarantees on Orange Jobs
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»  M5 Project- Worker Pays the Price
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»  Forum: Organising Youth in a Hostile Workplace
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»  Western Sahara Marks 25 Years of Waiting
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»  Action as Australia Considers WTO Ties
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Columns
»  The Soapbox
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»  Sport
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»  Trades Hall
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»  Tool Shed
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Letters to the editor
»  Cavalier Attitude to Cricketers
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»  Unions and the WEF: How should unions bridge the divide?
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»  Botsman's Ivory Tower
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»  Volunteering a Modest Proposal
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»  Well Done, Workers Online
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