The Guardian 14 February, 2007

Aboriginal Hostels Ltd
set to undermine workers’ conditions

The Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers’ Union (LHMU) has accused Aboriginal Hostels Limited (AHL) of taking an unnecessarily hard-line against its workers by introducing individual contracts (AWAs) that cut conditions, despite operating at a profit over the past few financial years.

As AHL is a non-profit organisation and fully funded by the Australian Government, any profit it makes is repaid to the Federal Government.

"AHL’s hard-line stance seems to have come as a directive from their bosses in the Federal Govern­ment. If the workforce doesn’t want to sign these AWAs that cut their conditions, their only option is to stay with the existing collective agreement with NO pay rises", Tim Ferrari, Assistant National Secretary of the LHMU said.

"As one of the bigger employers of Indigenous Australians we had hoped to see AHL lead by example. We had hoped AHL would ensure Indigenous workers enjoy adequate pay and conditions negotiated on a transparent collective basis in good faith with the aim of achieving quality outcomes for all.

"Trying to force our members into individual contracts is the opposite of what you would expect from a key Indigenous community institution.

"This seems to be an unwarranted ideological attack on hard-working employees, for no apparent reason other than to push the Federal Government’s radical IR regime", Mr Ferrari said.

The LHMU is concerned about a range of conditions that are under threat, in particular:

  • Base annual leave has been cut by two weeks;

  • Annual leave loading has been cut;

  • Paid maternity leave has been cut by two weeks;

  • Night allowances are cut;

  • Many key conditions — travel allowance, district allowance, higher duties allowance, redundancy and severance payments, minimum breaks between shifts, flexitime, miscellaneous leave, and the performance assessment system — are now removed from the agreement and are left entirely up to a manager’s whim.

    There are no longer any minimum hours per shift, and employee’s hours can now be averaged out over 12 months. This means employees could be required to work six hours one week and 56 hours the next.

    There are no guaranteed pay rises in the second and third years of the AWAs. All pay rises are linked to "performance management and assessment", and are therefore at management discretion.

    The classification structure has been removed, and there is no longer any opportunity for incremental advancement. Employees will now be stuck at the same level.

    Previous arrangements for Ceremonial Leave for Indigenous employees have been removed.

    The Disputes Resolution procedure is virtually non-existent for employees, as it allows the employer to end the process at any stage. Employees can not have a representative present, and it removes the traditional role of dispute settling for the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

    Staff are being offered a $1000 bonus for signing the AWAs, no doubt to buy workers’ agreement and to take their attention away from their lost conditions.

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