|Issue No 93||27 April 2001|
Neale Towart's Labour Review
A former male model and lawn-mowing enthusiast, our man in the library turns his many talents to the crazy world of industrial relations.
Overview of the Australian Labour Market 2000 by Keith Hancock and Ben Safari
Employment increased and unemployment fell. However, indications are that the expansionary phase may be ending
Between 1980 and 2000 the amount of total time at work by males (as a percentage of the total work force) declined from 70.1% to 63.8% (including part time workers). For women the equivalent figures were 29.9% and 36.2%.
The numbers at work have increased in the 20 year period, but the full time work force has declined substantially.
The feminisation of the workforce, linked to the trend to part time work, has seen a 16% narrowing of the gap between male and female employment rates over the years 1980-2000.
Prime age male employment (ages 25-54) has seen a major change, with a reduction from 90% full time equivalent to 82%.
Share of employment by industry over 1985-2000 shows expansion in property services, accommodation, cafes and restaurants. Weak performance in manufacturing, electricity, gas and water.
Using the ABS Survey of Employee Earnings and Hours, we can see anm increase in inequality in pay rates, and an increase in the female:male relativity.
High pay women fared worse in relative terms over the period than lower paid women.
(Australian Bulletin of labour; vol. 27, no. 1, March 2001)
Working At WALMART by Barbara Ehrenreich and Jane Birnbaum
Passing a urine test and personality profile will get you a job at Wal-Mart - where talking with co-workers is forbidden, unpaid overtime encouraged and health insurance unaffordable. All for $7 per hour. Orientation to the Wal-Mart way is an eight hour session, with full anti-union video and a history and philosophy of Wal-Mart founder, Sam Walton, Rather like being inducted into a cult.
Jane Birnbaum highlights the appalling treatment Wal-Mart hands out to its employees, the corporate welfare it enjoys, the extent of its imports (despite also being the largest retail employer in the US), its treatment of workers trying to unionise, its attitude to those customers injured in the stores and its attitude to people who live near their huge complexes.
([email protected]; April, 2001)
Fitness for Duty
To minimise the risk of unfair dismissal or discrimination claims, employers need to make sure that their procedures for testing and assessing a worker's fitness for duty are clear, fair and consultative. According to two papers delivered at the ACIRRT breakfast briefing on the topic of 'Fitness for Duty', employers and their human resource managers need to ensure that:
· employees are clearly informed of all relevant policies, such as those dealing with drug and
· alcohol use;
· employees are given reasonable opportunities to respond to any employer concern about their fitness for duty (FFD);
· all the avenues and procedures to manage and address FFD issues are clearly documented to help insure against potential claims.
Unequal treatment makes dismissal unfair
An employer failed to give equal treatment to its employees when it dismissed two of them for angrily confronting a third worker who damaged their lockers, while letting the third worker off with a caution, the IRC has found.
South Pacific Tyres' decision to sack the pair was "disproportionate and unfair'", Commissioner John Lewin found.
J Whitling v South Pacific Tyres. PR903454 (12 April 2001)
P Henshall v South Pacific Tyres. PR903422 (12 April 2001)
New way for unions to stymie WAWAs
Unions have won a new tool to prevent employers using WA Workplace Agreements to undercut award conditions, following a court decision yesterday.
The WA IRC (in Court Session) allowed an application by the LHMU to insert a new award provision guaranteeing new employees a genuine choice between collective and individual arrangements.
The ruling, according to WA employment lawyers, shows that the State Commission will ensure that alternative systems of employment regulation are not allowed to undercut the award system.
The judgment in LHMU (WA branch) v Airlite Cleaning Pty Ltd and Others might also be the first official recognition that WAWAs can be associated with a reduction in pay and terms and conditions of employment.
Company discriminating due to casual loading:
In what could be an important test case, the ASU is claiming in a Federal Court freedom of association action that a security company is unlawfully discriminating against a group of casual security guards because of their entitlement to a 25% casual loading.
Chubb Security Services Limited today gave a temporary undertaking to Justice Peter Gray that it wouldn't bring in new employees from outside the company to replace the 100 or so casual cash-in-transit guards, many of whom have refused the company's request to convert to part-time or full-time permanent status.
The guards, some with up to 20 years service, are understood to prefer the flexibility and higher hourly rates of their casual employment.
They fear that by bringing in new permanent employees, the company would severely reduce the number of hours available to casual employees.
The union's stance is unusual, given that unions have traditionally supported a shift from casual to permanent employment.
It claims that the company has injured the employees in their employment in breach of s298K(1)(b) and prejudicially altered their positions in breach of s298K(1)(c), for the prohibited reason under s298L(1)(h)that they are entitled to the benefits of an industrial instrument.
Work & Parents: Competitiveness and Choice- a summary: Parental Leave in the UK
The Blair government released a green paper on options for parental leave (in December 2000)
Some of the problems it addresses include:
· Should the period of unpaid maternity leave be extended so that a woman can stay at homefor a year in total?
· Should any extension to unpaid maternity leave be shared equally between the mother and the father?
· Should the flat rate of maternity pay be increased? Or the period over which a woman receives maternity pay lengthened to 26 weeks?
· Should one parent have a right to leave paid at the equivalent flat rate and for the same length of time as maternity pay when adopting a child?
An increasing number of men want to play a more active role in supporting their partner following the arrival of a new child.
· Should working fathers be given paternity leave, for example for two weeks, paid at the same flat rate as maternity pay?
· What mechanism should be used if paid paternity leave is introduced and why?
Paying for parental leave would be very costly for employers and the State. However, the Government is seeking views on whether, despite this, it is a priority. Other options on parental leave are:
· Should the amount of parental leave available to parents of disabled children be increased?
· Should there be funding to help employers develop flexible parental leave schemes?
People are now able to take unpaid time off to deal with a family emergency, for example, when children are sick.
· Should this entitlement to time off work include routine hospital appointments for children and other dependants?
The main problem faced by employers, especially small ones, is finding cover when someone is absent.
· How could the Employment Service and private recruitment agencies work with employers from an earlier stage with managing absences?
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid by employers and then refunded by Government. This creates an administrative cost for employers. What can we do to reduce the costs for employers?
· Should more small and medium-sized employers qualify for complete repayment of the money they pay out on SMP and the additional compensation?
· Should small employers be encouraged to make use of the existing
provision to seek SMP payments in advance from the Inland Revenue?
UK business lobby attacks "work-life balance" agenda
One of Britain's major business groups has launched a broadside against the "work-life balance" agenda and its polemicists and lobbyists, who it says are partly responsible for the re-regulation of the labour market.
The attack by the Institute of Directors follows the Blair Government's boosting of statutory paid maternity and adoption pay (which is paid by the employer but reimbursed by the Government) and the recent release of a Government green paper which canvasses introducing a broad range of "family friendly" measures.
The main targets in the IOD's sights are claims about the "long-hours culture", the alleged inflexibilities and demands of the workplace that make it hard to satisfactorily balance "work" and "lives"; and job insecurity.
The IOD's report, The "Work-Life Balance"... and all that: The re-regulation of the labour market (see links below) says that while the Institute recognises that mothers in particular have to make very hard choices between their careers and children, "these problems are essentially insoluble". In its press release accompanying the report, the IOD says the "unrealistic and sentimentalist demands" for better work-life flexibilities fail to understand how business works.
Corporate: The Jobs Myth
Access Economics' Chris Richardson debunks employer claims that increased workers compensation premiums have a dramatic impact on jobs.
Interview: The Workers’ Voice
When trade union stalwart Ian West took a seat in the NSW Upper House he was determined to be more than a bench-warmer. Then the Workers Comp legislation hit.
Unions: Postcard from the Pilbara
In the face of unprecedented pressure, BHP workers in the Pilbara are standing together and refusing to sign individual cotnracts.
Economics: Currency Unification: Dollarize or Die?
Dick Bryan asks what happens to an economy when it gives up its domestic currency.
History: Instant History
In his address to the Australian Labour History Conference, the SMH's Brad Norington asks whether there is still time for history.
International: The End of an Era?
The post-Cold War era is over. Something different is developing to take its place. John Passant writes.
Media: The Battle for Aunty
The CPSU's Graeme Thompson ouitlines the campaign to save the ABC and this week's emergency share-holders' meeting.
Review: Share-Holder Nation
A legacy of government-backed privatisations, demutualisations and stockmarket hype over the past decade is the creation of a nation of shareholders.
Satire: SOS: Save the Investment Banker!
Spare a thought for those less fortunate With redundancies at investment banks around the globe looming, now is the time for us to show the world just how much we care. It's just not right.
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