‘No disadvantage’ aim in modern awards was ‘just an objective’: Rudd

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‘No disadvantage’ aim in modern awards was ‘just an objective’: Rudd

The Federal Government has backed away from guaranteeing no employer or employee will be worse off under modern awards and, instead, is saying that this is the ‘objective’ of the award changes, not a guaranteed outcome.

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The Federal Government has backed away from guaranteeing no employer or employee will be worse off under modern awards and, instead, is saying that this is the ‘objective’ of the award changes, not a guaranteed outcome.
 
IR commentators have said from the time Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard requested the AIRC take into account the ‘no disadvantage’ factor when framing modern awards that this would be very difficult if not impossible.
 
In its transition decision published on Wednesday the Commission said that the request for a modern award system from IR Minister Julia Gillard ‘provides that the process is not intended to disadvantage employees or increase costs for employers — objectives which are potentially competing’.
 
Some will win, some will lose
 
‘It is clear that some award conditions will increase, leading to cost increases, and others will decrease, leading to potential disadvantage for employees, depending upon the current award coverage,’ the Full Bench said.
 
Unions and employer organisations have since expressed their anger that some of the people they represent will be worse off.
 
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd attempted to downplay this outcome yesterday, saying that the ‘no disadvantage’ outcome was an ‘objective’ and not a guarantee.
 
‘Objectives and intentions’
 
Melbourne radio commentator Neil Mitchell put it to Rudd that what he was talking about were ‘objectives and intentions … not guarantees’.
 
Rudd challenged Mitchell to show where the ‘guarantee’ claim was made before the election.
 
On the 7.30 Report on Tuesday night it was put to Gillard that the ‘no disadvantage’ aim was ‘irreconcilable’ and asked is such aims could be met.
 
‘They are being met as awards are being modernised and the fact that overwhelmingly this process has happened without concerns from employers or unions shows that the process we set up is working,’ Gillard said.
 
‘Ongoing argument’ with unions
 
ACTU president Sharon Burrow said unions would have ‘an ongoing argument’ with the government if some workers lose out when modern awards begin operating on 1 January 2010 (though the five-year transition arrangements do not begin until 1 July 2010).
 
She said they would continue to argue on behalf of workers ‘because indeed the Government did say that no worker would be worse off’.
 
David Gregory, director of workplace policy at ACCI, said there are going to be cost increases for many employers ‘and that’s going to be disappointing, particularly given the assurances that we had from the Government, right up front, that this was not about increasing costs for employers’.
 
Sting for employers
 
‘I think the bottom line is that there will be a considerable sting for many employers in the transition as they move from state-based IR systems to the new federal framework.’
 
The final word goes to Andrew Stewart, Professor of Law at the University of Adelaide:
‘There was no way this process was going to result in anything other than some winners and losers.'
 
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