Watchdog accused of cover-up over AWA details

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Watchdog accused of cover-up over AWA details

The Workplace Authority says it cannot release the details of AWAs unless it has the consent of both the employer and employee - even if the names of both are blacked out.

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The Workplace Authority says it cannot release the details of AWAs unless it has the consent of both the employer and employee - even if the names of both are blacked out.

This is despite the fact that the WorkChoices laws do not ban the release of the content of AWAs, only the identities of the respondents.

Media reports at the weekend say Victorian Industrial Relations Minister, Rob Hulls, has received a complaint from his own State Workplace Rights Advocate, Anthony Lawrence, about obstruction by the head of the Workplace Authority, Barbara Bennet, over AWAs.

Not consistent

In a letter to Hulls, Lawrence says Bennett’s position is not consistent with WorkChoices laws, which only ‘prohibit identification of the parties’ but not disclosure of content.

‘It appears to me that it would therefore be possible for Bennett to provide me with copies of the AWAs I seek, with the names of the parties masked,’ Lawrence wrote.

Last week, in releasing the first report on the application of the new fairness test, Bennett said she had a ‘commitment to being transparent’.

However, in a letter to Lawrence she said she needed the consent of both parties to an agreement before releasing the information.

Furore

Last year, the old Office of the Employment Advocate released details of how many AWAs were stripping away award-protected rights such as penalty rates and overtime.

The fact that every AWA surveyed took away at least one award entitlement, and many stripped them all away, caused such a furore that the Federal Government immediately banned the release of further data.

Director charged with obstructing ombudsman inspector

Meanwhile, the Workplace Ombudsman is prosecuting the director of a printing company for allegedly obstructing an inspector during his investigation of the company.

The Ombudsman recovered a massive $93,667.96 in unpaid wages from the Hawthorn (Vic) printing company and is seeking financial penalties for numerous breaches of workplace law at a hearing scheduled for today (10 Sept).

The company’s director is being prosecuted under the Commonwealth Criminal Code.

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