Labor warns bosses not to rush into AWAs

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Labor warns bosses not to rush into AWAs

Labor has warned employers not to try to sign their workers up on long term AWAs before the next election, saying it would not be in their interest to do so.

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Labor has warned employers not to try to sign their workers up on long term AWAs before the next election, saying it would not be in their interest to do so.

IR spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, said last night on ABC's Lateline program that while there was nothing currently to stop employers putting all their workers on AWAs, they should stop and think first.

'To make an AWA they've got to engage with the new bureaucracy run by [Workplace Authority head] Barbara Bennett and the feedback from employers is that they send AWAs into that bureaucracy and they wait and they don't know what's going on. The uncertainty is not good for business,' Gillard said.

AWAs not a long term arrangement

'Secondly, I think it would weigh on the minds of businesses that whilst they might do that now, that cannot be their long-term industrial arrangement if Labor is elected.'

Asked whether employers might plan to keep all their employees on AWAs right through the term of a Labor Government and 'wait and hope that a new government came along and brought AWAs back into vogue', Gillard pointed out that 'that is putting a hypothetical example where you don't get any turnover of staff'.

'Of course in most businesses you would expect to get some turnover of staff in a one, two, three-year period,' she said. 'And employers would know if Labor is elected there will be a new industrial relations system. It'll be a fair and balanced one, but it will not have Howard's AWAs as part of the system.

Secure arrangements

'So I would say that many employers would be thinking to themselves: "I want to get secure arrangements for the long-term, I don't want to be chopping and changing between systems, the election will come, I will see what the election brings".

'And at least they can say to themselves they know what Labor is going to do if elected. Once again, we don't know what Howard's going to do if he's elected. We know, of course, that many of his members, Senator Nick Minchin being a very notable one, have urged him to go further on industrial relations. But we haven't heard any details of what he's got planned.'

Gillard reiterated that employees earning above $100,000 will have the 10 national legislated employment standards but they would be free to make 'a common law contract, a very flexible arrangement on top of those 10 standards'.

Can put standards into common law agreements

She said such employees would not have access to the award safety net standards unless they and their employers chose to include some or all of them in the common law agreements.

'But the award does not mechanically apply to you,' Gillard said. 'You can, of course, as an upper income earner, still join with your workmates and collectively bargain if that's what you choose to do.'

Don't need to be in a union?

Asked whether the message to anyone earning more than $100,000 is 'you don't need a union, you don't need to be a member of a union, in fact you may not benefit at all from being in a union', Gillard said:

'I think we've got to be clear about this. Union membership, union eligibility isn't about whether or not you're covered by an award. That is about whether or not you want to be a member of a union.'

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