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.
Life without unions
Desperate workers willing to do anything for a few crumbs
Everything that an employer ever dreamed of
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
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:
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
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
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!