The Guardian 30 November, 2005

WorkChoices means no choice

Sachie Murata has given days of harrowing evidence to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission in support of her claim that she was threatened with deportation to Japan if she didnít sign an AWA, non-union contract that robbed her of award entitlements.

Under vigorous cross examination, she maintained she didnít even know she had been employed under an AWA until informed by her solicitor, 18 months after the document was secretly rubber stamped by the Office of the Employment Advocate.

Murataís unfair contracts claim will simply die, with nowhere to go, if a tame Senate green lights WorkChoices.

There is no provision under WorkChoices for unfair contracts actions, and it will strip the vast majority of Australians of anywhere to contest unfair sackings.

PM Howard hasnít even made provision for people like Murata, who have spent thousands of dollars getting their cases before Commissions, to get an outcome.

"They will simply die, itís as though they never happened", industrial lawyer Adam Searle, confirmed.

Mr Searle has been running a pay equity case on behalf of NSW childcare workers that will also evaporate into Howardís black hole.

That case opened long before the Prime Minister admitted the extent of his workplace revamp.

"We have finished all the evidence and are due to present oral submissions from December 6", Adam Searle said. "Under the new law, the case disappears, there is nowhere to pursue it. Childcare workers are poorly paid with little bargaining power. Under WorkChoices they will be left with no choices at all."

Some embarrassed Coalition Senators were claiming last week that they had not realised they would be slamming the door on cases, some years old, that were already underway.

However, at least four separate submissions to their lightening-speed inquiry warned that would be the consequence of their actions.

Senators received submissions to that effect from the Electrical Trades Union, the NSW Law Society and Sydney barrister, Shane Prince, who also furnished them with a supplementary submission.

The final lie was given to their pleadings by evidence from Department of Employment and Workplace Relations Deputy Secretary, Finn Pratt, who told the Senate Inquiry that was both the effect and intent of the WorkChoices.

"There is no accrued right to have part-heard arbitration claims determined on the basis of pre-existing legislation", Pratt told Senators who were listening, on November 14. "I understand that the government will ensure there is no doubt surrounding this issue."

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