'Give us the detail on scrapping AWAs': employers to  Beazley

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'Give us the detail on scrapping AWAs': employers to Beazley

A leading business organisation has called on Opposition Leader Kim Beazley to release details of how his plan to abolish AWAs would affect those already in existence, saying ‘a few lines in a speech’ is not enough.

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A leading business organisation has called on Opposition Leader Kim Beazley to release details of how his plan to abolish AWAs would affect those already in existence, saying ‘a few lines in a speech’ is not enough.

Meanwhile, ACTU Secretary Greg Combet says that by supporting AWA individual contracts Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews is ‘trying to defend the indefensible’.

ABL State Chamber CEO Kevin MacDonald said Beazley’s promise to retrospectively cancel AWAs and limit the use of non-union agreements has created considerable uncertainty amongst Australian businesses and that he must detail the transitionary arrangements for his policy.

‘More than 500,000 people are employed under AWAs and business needs to see what alternatives to AWAs are being proposed by Beazley,’ MacDonald said.

How will it work

‘A few lines in the middle of a speech is not enough detail. Australian businesses expect higher standards in policy work than a few lines.

‘We have not seen from Beazley the details of how his proposals will work, nor have we seen the details of Beazley’s proposal to re-introduce the unfair dismissal regime to small businesses.’

ACTU position

The ACTU said the Howard Government is ignoring official data that shows individual work contracts (AWAs) are being extensively used under the new IR laws to cut the take home pay of workers and to axe penalty rates, shift allowances and annual leave loading.

Combet said AWA individual contracts are ‘clearly designed by the Howard Government to undermine the pay and conditions that are laid down in the various industrial awards’.

‘The Howard Government’s new IR laws expressly allow employers to get rid of penalty rates, shift allowances, overtime payments, leave loading, public holiday pay, meal breaks and other important entitlements,’ he said.

‘This is what has happened to new Spotlight employees and this is what is happening across the board with AWA individual contracts under the new IR laws.

‘A senior Government official reported to the Parliament two weeks ago that every individual contract (AWA) registered under the new laws has taken away at least one protected award condition.’

Andrews quotes IMF

Minister Andrews put out a statement today quoting the Managing Director of the IMF, Rodrigo De Rato, as saying in Canberra:

‘Australia has taken important steps to become more flexible and at the same time keep its safety net structures, but this is an on-going movement, the world is changing, competition is shifting and labour laws have to reflect that fact.

The labour laws, not only of the 1970s, but even the 1990s, are probably not the ones we need for the 21st century.’

Andrews said: ‘Kim Beazley, wants to take Australia back to the pre-Keating labour market reform era, because that’s what the unions are demanding.’

Beazley’s claim that workers on AWAs would simply be able to move on to common law contracts without negative flow-on effects to workplace flexibility and the economy ‘is a complete fantasy’, Andrews said.

‘Common law contracts are an entirely different thing to AWAs,’ he said. ‘Common law contracts can not override relevant award terms and conditions.’

This last point highlights the now clear difference between the parties - the fact that common law contracts can not override relevant award terms and conditions is precisely why Beazley wants to introduce them.

Fine tuning

Meanwhile, Andrews said at a press conference this morning that the Federal Government was continuing to monitor the WorkChoices legislation ‘and if there is a sensible fine tuning that is needed, or some technical amendment that might be needed, well then we’ll look at it’.

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