All AWAs remove award conditions, OEA reveals

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All AWAs remove award conditions, OEA reveals

A sample of AWAs lodged since the WorkChoices legislation came in indicates that all AWAs have removed at least one award condition such as overtime or penalty rates, the Office of Employment Advocate (OEA) has admitted to a Senate Estimates hearing.

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A sample of AWAs lodged since the WorkChoices legislation came in indicates that all AWAs have removed at least one award condition such as overtime or penalty rates, the Office of Employment Advocate (OEA) has admitted to a Senate Estimates hearing.

ALP reaction

Opposition IR spokesman Stephen Smith said more than 60% of the sample excluded penalty rates and leave loadings. And over 50% of the sample excludes a shift allowance.

'And 16% of AWAs exclude all Award entitlements and conditions', Smith said.

Smith said it had been established at the Estimates Committee hearings last night that since the Act came into effect on 27 March, there have been more than 6,200 AWAs lodged up to the end of April.

'The OEA indicated last night that, as we know from the Act, the AWAs are binding on lodgement,' he said.

'There is no examination of the content on lodgement. All the OEA does is look at a sample and they have looked at a sample of about 4%, about 250 AWAs, since the Act came into effect.'

OEA evidence

Employment Advocate Peter McIlwain told a Senate estimates hearing:

  • 16% of AWAs reviewed by the OEA had expressly excluded all protected award conditions.
  • Provisions most often removed from AWAs were: leave loading (64%), penalty rates (63%) and shiftwork loading (52%).
  • 59% of AWAs retained declared public holidays.
  • 78% of AWAs provided for a pay rise (so 22% did not).
  • award conditions most often modified were overtime loading (31%), rest breaks (29%) and public holiday payments (27%).

Excluding all protected conditions

McIlwain also said it was sufficient for AWAs to have a single sentence excluding all protected conditions.

However he said parties were advised that they should use a form of wording such as: 'for the avoidance of doubt, the following protected conditions are excluded', followed by a list the excluded provisions.

Annual leave

McIlwain said 6% of AWAs did not meet the annual leave benchmark in the AFPCS, and these would be referred to the Office of Workplace Services, which can prosecute over such breaches.

Trend ?

Smith said the sample 'confirms what we've been saying: that in allowing the 'Spotlight AWA, two cents an hour', this is John Howard's drive to the bottom; his two cents an hour race to the bottom'.

However Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz, said statistics are 'like skimpy bathers - what they show is interesting; what they hide is vital'.

He said it was important not to put too much weight on statistics 'in isolation'.

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