Fairness test approves big cuts for meatworkers - ACTU

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Fairness test approves big cuts for meatworkers - ACTU

The Workplace Authority has told an abattoir that a collective agreement which cuts workers' wages by up to $88 a week and allows them to be stood down at short notice without pay, would pass the fairness test, the ACTU says.

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The Workplace Authority has told an abattoir that a collective agreement which cuts workers' wages by up to $88 a week and allows them to be stood down at short notice without pay, would pass the fairness test, the ACTU says.

ACTU President, Sharan Burrow, said the non-union agreement, which would cover 300 workers at the Lobethal abattoir in SA's Adelaide Hills district:

  • Completely gets rid of the rights of employees to paid rest breaks, annual leave loading, and other important allowances.
  • Cuts week-day and weekend overtime rates as well as public holiday rates.
  • Gives workers an annual pay increase of only 2% when this is below the rate of inflation and way below increases in the cost of housing, petrol and food for working families.
  • Removes without compensation a 10% loading paid to workers under the award to compensate them for the fact they can be stood down at short notice without pay if there are stock shortages. (The agreement gets rid of the 10% loading but still allows workers to be stood down without pay.)
  • Gets rid of the 38 hour week and increases standard working hours to 40 hours a week.

It is yet to be put to the abattoir workforce, but under the fairness test rules employers can get a ruling on whether an agreement would pass the fairness test before it is formally submitted.

‘Total sham'

Burrow said the ruling shows the fairness test ‘is a total sham'.

‘Here we have around 300 employees who are being asked to work longer hours for less money and the Federal Government has given it the big tick,' she said. 'The Howard Government's workplace watchdog has given the company proposal its tick of approval despite the fact meatworkers are not fully compensated for the loss of their conditions.

‘The head of the Workplace Authority, Barbara Bennett, has also advised the company the agreement does not contain any prohibited content despite the agreement including a clause that clearly discriminates against 457 visa holders by exempting them from access to unfair dismissal laws.'

‘Happened under Labor,' says Hockey

Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, called Labor's IR spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, to ‘guarantee no worker will be worse off under Labor'.

‘The situation being reported about the Lobethal Abattoir in Adelaide could happen under Labor and did happen under Labor and Burrow knows it,' he said. ‘I call on Gillard to guarantee no worker will be worse off under Labor. I call on Gillard to confirm whether the unions will be involved in every agreement.

‘Sharan Burrow knows the fairness test is working, which is now (sic) doubt why in an act of sheer desperation she is now resorting to personal attacks and classic ACTU scare mongering. Are these the sort of people you want running the country?'

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