Howard not so charming now, says Spotlight worker

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Howard not so charming now, says Spotlight worker

Prime Minister John Howard believes it is worthwhile if Australian workers lose conditions and suffer wage cuts, provided the result is a stronger economy and some unemployed people getting jobs.

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Prime Minister John Howard believes it is worthwhile if Australian workers lose conditions and suffer wage cuts, provided the result is a stronger economy and some unemployed people getting jobs.

This has been made clear in his answers to a sustained attack by the ALP in question time on the Spotlight haberdashery store’s AWAs for new workers which gives them a wage rise of 2 cents an hour for the loss of overtime, penalty rates and a number of other payments.

The issue came to prominence when the Coffs Harbour Spotlight store refused a worker, Annette Harris, four weeks leave without pay saying they regarded her absence as termination and she would have to return to her old job under the new AWA.

The estimated cost to her of this was about $90 a week.

'Arrogant attitude’

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley asked Howard: ‘Is the Prime Minister aware of the statement on ABC radio on Saturday by Mrs Harris:

"I thought John Howard was just Prince Charming ...

"But ... after what’s happened and his arrogant attitude in Parliament - it’s just left me cold ...

"I’d like him to come and walk in my shoes for a day and see what I actually do as a mother and as a worker and then coming home every night.

"I don’t have people serving me for $14.28 an hour, I’ve got to do all that myself."

‘When will the Prime Minister go to Coffs Harbour and personally explain to Mrs Harris how her losing $90 a week is fair?'

Howard said he was not aware of Harris’s comments.

‘Personal regret'

‘Obviously, like any other person in public life, if somebody thinks poorly of decisions with which I am associated, that is a matter for personal regret.

‘I can only make the observation, as I did last week … that Spotlight has recently opened a new outlet in Mount Druitt.

‘The unemployment rate in Mount Druitt is over 10%. I am further informed that 38 of the 40 new staff employed on AWAs in Spotlight at Mount Druitt in Western Sydney were previously unemployed. In other words, there are 38 people who are better off.’

Howard said the difference in pay rates ‘is not actually $90; it is $338.10, because that is the difference between the amount a job seeker on the unemployment benefit of $205.30 a week receives and the amount that they will receive under a Spotlight AWA of $543.40 a week.

‘As a result of our policy, 38 people in Mount Druitt have been given the chance of a job and they are $338 a week better off.’

Worried about the future

Annette Harris (who after all the publicity has been offered her job back at her old pay rates) told the ABC:

‘I mean I’m an older worker, but I look at the younger ones that are coming up - how are they going to be able to afford to buy their own home and things like that ... it’s a real worry.’

This caused Opposition spokesman on IR, Stephen Smith to ask Howard: ‘When will the Prime Minister go to Coffs Harbour and explain to Mrs Harris how the Spotlight two cents an hour AWA means she doesn’t really have to worry about the future?'

Last week Howard told Parliament that the worth of his workplace relations policies would be seen in whether they resulted in a stronger Australian economy.

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Federal Govt, employers back 2c AWA that costs workers $90 a week

 

 

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