The Guardian 14 September, 2005

Equal pay campaigns to be outlawed

The federal government’s latest assault on collective bargaining has opened with a Bill that will make it unlawful for Australians to agitate for equal pay. Amendments to the "Better Bargaining Bill", passed through Parliament last week, ban employees, at different sites, from asking for similar wages or conditions, even when they are doing the same work.

They make industry-wide strikes illegal, and allow the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) to shut down lawful industrial action.

The move to block "pattern bargaining" or "equal pay for equal work" comes as the government’s Office of the Employment Advocate is promoting "pattern" individual agreements that cut ruling rate payments and that dose away with negotiated conditions.

The pattern bargaining ban applies only to collective contracts but is silent on AWAs (non-union Australian Workplace Agreements) and other forms of individual contracts.

The Bill gives third parties the right to seek IRC orders that would halt protected stoppages, and gives the Commission the power to stop protected action when it becomes effective.

There are no matching remedies for anyone to challenge employer lockouts.

The amendments, defeated three times in recent years, are now headed for the government-controlled Senate.

The amendments are forerunners to major legislative change that will remove unfair dismissal rights from millions of Australians, and slash existing entitlements back to five minimum conditions.

The suite of anti-worker laws will be backed by jail time, and massive fines for unions and individual workers who engage in industrial activity that will be pronounced unlawful.

The government plans is legislating for fines of over $100,000 for unions and up to $20,000 for individual members.

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