Are AWAs too good to be true?

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Are AWAs too good to be true?

The 500,000th Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA) may have been signed this week, but less than 2% of the workforce is covered by them.

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The 500,000th Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA) may have been signed this week, but less than 2% of the workforce is covered by them.

The federal Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews puts the AWA growth rate for 2002-2003 at 35% and says AWAs are the fastest growing employment instrument.

He claims that workers on AWAs earn on average 29% more than workers on federal certified agreements.

However, AWA workers say they work longer hours than workers on collective agreements (see previous story).

Regardless, keeping AWAs on the industrial agenda is important to Andrews, as he believes they provide workers with a choice in agreement making.

He said ALP plans to abolish AWAs if they win Government is based on an ‘ideological hatred’ stemming from the fact that unions are not involved in the negotiating process.

Not impressed

However, the latest AWA figures don’t impress the Shadow Workplace Relations Minister Craig Emerson. ‘A total of 500,000 AWAs might have been approved since the Howard Government first came to office, but only half this number is currently in force,’ he said.

He rejects claims that AWAs provide workers with choice in agreement making. ‘AWAs are secretive and contrary to their name and are, in many cases, not agreements but edicts issued by employers on a take-it-or-leave-it basis,’ he said.

ALP plans to abolish AWAs and the Office of the Employment Advocate will save taxpayers $72.4 million over four years, he said.

Little for a lot of effort

The Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) says the AWA figures are nothing to rejoice about.

Despite the Federal Government pushing AWAs for eight years, as the preferred agreement –making alternative, only 1.2% of the workforce is covered by them, QCU secretary Grace Grace said. 

‘This is not a particularly flattering figure for the Federal Government and one which proves that workers prefer to have unions negotiate agreements on their behalf,’ she said.

‘Statistics continue to confirm that workers who are members of unions enjoy pay and conditions far superior to those who aren't members - including those covered by AWAs.’

For more information on AWAs go to the OEA website.

Related

Collective agreements versus AWAs: OEA report

OEA on hourly pay rates

 

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