The Guardian 2 March, 2005

Back to the 1800s

Employees of a Melbourne sign maker are resisting AWAs that ban music, encourage discrimination, and condemn them to long trousers, or full length skirts, even in 40 degree heat.

Six of eight employees at Civiquip, Hoppers Crossing in Victoria, have joined the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) in a bid to knock off AWAs being championed by Prime Minister, John Howard.

AMWU organiser, Fergal Eiffe, says proposed earnings fall between $1 and $9 an hour below enterprise bargaining rates being paid in the region; that the 2.5 percent annual increase offered would see workers fall below the CPI; and that leave loadings appear to have vanished all together.

"This is the trouble with AWAs. They are an opportunity for employers to tear down wages, conditions and basic human rights with the government's blessing", Mr Eiffe said.

"These ones look like they were drafted in the 1800s."

The documents bar radios, computers, mobile phones, slacks, shorts, coarse or blasphemous language from Civiquip's premises, on pain of dismissal, and allow the company to work employees on Victoria's Melbourne Cup public holiday.

They give the thumbs-up to religious discrimination and legitimise employer discrimination, as long as he has less than six full-time employees.

The AWA reads, "Nothing in these provisions prohibits any discriminatory conduct by:

"(A) a person (against another person) if the discrimination is necessary for the first person to comply with the person's genuine religious beliefs or principles.

"(B) an Employer if the Employer employs no more than the equivalent of five people on a full-time basis ... "

Civiquip AWAs call on workers to sign away rights to union representation.

The AWAs, prepared by IR Australia of Pitt St, Sydney, were handed to employees just prior to Christmas.

That, Fergal Eiffe says, goes to the core of what AWAs are all about.

"These people didn't even know IR Australia existed until they found out they were writing their new terms of employment.

"This has got nothing to do with flexibility or bargaining in the workplace. It is about loading the dice in the employer's favour so he can cut living standards and, in this case, impose his own value system on everyone who works for him."

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