Workers can 'opt out of AWAs before they expire', says Gillard

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Workers can 'opt out of AWAs before they expire', says Gillard

Australian workers will be able to opt out of AWAs they have signed before they expire, if Labor wins the next Federal election.

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Australian workers will be able to opt out of AWAs they have signed before they expire, if Labor wins the next Federal election.

ALP Industrial Relations spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, said on the ABC yesterday that 'sensible transitional arrangements' would be put in place for the one million people who now are signed up on AWAs — if they wanted to use them. However there was no question that AWAs would not be abolished.

'For those workers who want their AWA to last for the life of the agreement it can,' she said. 'For those workers who want to move to other industrial instruments they can do that.'

Gillard repeated Labor's policy that common law agreements would be an option in replacing AWAs.

'Flexible' common law agreements

'More than 30% of our workforce is currently covered by common law agreements,' she said. 'They offer a lot of flexibility and they'll be part of Labor's industrial relations arrangements. Then, of course, you can have very flexible award conditions, you can have very flexible collective agreements.'

Asked how many people would want to go through the negotiating process again, Gillard said: 'Well, I think if I was a woman working part time and I was earning 25% less than a woman performing exactly the same work on another kind of industrial instrument I don't think I'd be very happy keeping my AWA. I think I'd quite like to go to a fairer set of work arrangements.'

ABC interviewer Barrie Cassidy put it to Gillard that people 'weren't coerced into going into these arrangements in the first place, they didn't go in with a blindfold on'.

'You can't possibly know that, Barrie,' Gillard replied. 'We get stories all the time ... where people have been told that you can only have the job if you sign an AWA, that you can only have the promotion if you sign an AWA. And then there is a more coercive element where you're told basically you can only keep your job if you sign the AWA.

Sign up or be sacked

'And in a world where you can get sacked unfairly if you work in a firm of less than a hundred for basically no reason at all and have no recourse, if your boss basically gives a nod and a wink that he'd very much like you to sign the AWA it will be not many workers who can hold up against that.'

Gillard said the difference between Labor's proposed system and AWAs was that 'we're talking about flexibility off a fair base rather than flexibility downwards'.

She said the Federal Government claims to be proud of its system of AWAs but had stopped the collection of statistics which showed how many working conditions had been lost by employees who worked under them.

Gillard said the truth was that 'they're not that proud of AWAs because they don't want you or me or the Australian people to actually know the true details about them - that's why they're covering them up'.

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