The Guardian 1 June, 2005

From AWARDS to AWAs:
Stripping the rights and dignity of workers

The Howard Government’s assault on the trade union movement plans to give employers the power to take back over 150 years of gains and rights won through sacrifice and struggle.

Howard’s vision

  • Life without unions

  • Master-servant relationship

  • Desperate workers willing to do anything for a few crumbs

  • Deregulated workplaces

  • Everything that an employer ever dreamed of

    Individual contracts

  • Government will spend tens of millions helping bosses force workers onto Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) — non-union individual work contracts

  • Legal for employers to say "sign the AWA or no job"

  • Employers free to force workers to sign AWAs even where an enterprise agreement is in place covering them

    Enterprise Bargaining Agreements

  • Five-year enterprise bargaining agreements

  • EBAs to be stripped

    Awards stripped and overridden

  • Superannuation, notice of termination, jury service and long service leave — all deleted from awards

  • The no-disadvantage test scrubbed

  • No requirement that AWAs and EBAs are not inferior to award provisions

    Minimum wage

  • Unfair Pay Commission to determine minimum wage rates

  • Commission members to be handpicked by the government

  • Decisions based on reducing cost of labour to bosses — meaning low wages

  • Minimum wage will be reduced in future years

  • Existing award rates frozen

    Wages & conditions slashed

  • Wages & conditions of millions of workers will be slashed as bosses force them onto individual contracts

    Four minimum conditions

    Only four legislated legally binding minimum conditions:

  • annual leave

  • personal carer’s leave

  • parental leave (including maternity)

  • maximum ordinary hours of work

    Unfair Pay and Conditions Standard

  • The four legislated conditions and the minimum wagerates to be determined by the Fair Pay Commission

  • The government calls this standard a "genuine safety net"

  • Workers will need a microscope to find the net

    Unfair dismissal

  • 99 per cent of companies (those with up to 100 employees) will be able to sack workers with impunity

  • No protection, no notice of termination (or even one week’s pay in lieu)

  • No redundancy payments for small businesses

  • Workplace relations Minister Andrews calls this "enhancement of employment laws"

    Industrial Relations Commission kneecapped

  • IRC will have no say in determining wages and conditions

  • Will help strip awards

  • Main role will be dispute resolution

    National system

  • Wipe state systems where in many instances superior conditions prevail

  • e.g. in NSW top state award rate for teacher in independent school is $16,739 more than in Victoria under a federal award!

  • If states refuse to surrender their industrial relations powers to Commonwealth, then Howard will use corporations law to override states

    Workers subjected to corporations law

  • AWAs — the employment contracts between workers and employers (eg BHP, Rio Tinto, Telstra, McDonalds) treated in law as contracts between equal partners

  • The courts become the only redress for workers for justice, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and take years

    Trade union rights wiped

  • The very means that workers have at their disposal to resist the assault will be stripped

  • Will be harder for unions to have access to members, to provide them with information and assistance

  • Unions will be shut out of individual contracts

  • Compulsory secret ballots before strike action

  • Virtually all industrial action will be illegal

    Final solution for building and construction unions

  • All industrial action during EBAs will be illegal

  • Huge fines for unions and individual workers

  • Pattern bargaining outlawed

  • Policing of building sites, workers spied on

    Increased employer powers

  • Collective bargaining made much more difficult

  • Aim to pit each individual worker against the boss ontheir own

    That’s not all

    The government is going to pursue the many bills that it has not been able to get through the Senate once it gains control of that house next month.

    Final details of its plans to encourage "independent contractors" (with no entitlements or rights whatsoever,) to undermine the apprenticeship system and remove employer obligations regarding occupational health and safety, are still to be released.

    Join the workers’ campaign to defend rights at work!

    Back to index page