Simplifying awards is ‘code for slashing’, says Opposition

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Simplifying awards is ‘code for slashing’, says Opposition

The Federal Government move to cut back the number of awards in Australia from 4000 to just dozens has been described by the Opposition as ‘simply code for slashing entitlements and conditions’.

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The Federal Government move to cut back the number of awards in Australia from 4000 to just dozens has been described by the Opposition as ‘simply code for slashing entitlements and conditions’. 

Special taskforce

Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews today appointed AIRC senior deputy president Mathew O’Callaghan to head a special taskforce which will report in January on its strategy for simplifying the award system. 

The taskforce will then report in July on how to rationalise the myriad of federal and state awards that have grown over the years. 

Andrews said the streamlining of the award system would reduce costs for business and boost the economy. 

ALP reaction

However Opposition IR spokesman Stephen Smith said the plan to rationalise federal awards is ‘simply code for slashing the entitlements and conditions of the 1.7 million Australian employees currently employed on an Award, and millions of others reliant on awards for setting many of their terms and conditions’. 

‘It is inevitable that in cutting back 4000 Awards to the mere dozens the Minister proposes, that employee conditions will be slashed,’ Smith said. 

Smith criticised the fact that the taskforce will have less than two months to report on ‘what Andrews himself considers to be a myriad of wage and job classifications’. 

‘And there is no obligation on Senior Deputy President O’Callaghan’s part to consult with stakeholders, such as employees and employers, during the review process,’ he said.

ACTU reaction

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet also attacked the move, calling it a ‘massive attack on people’s safety net rights’. 

He said it would inevitably abolish employment conditions ‘en masse’. 

‘It can’t do anything but, when you are slashing 4000 awards down to 40 or 50, stripping them down to 16 clauses and taking out all the so-called prohibited content,’ Combet said.

However, this afternoon Andrews office issued a statement in which Combet is quoted as saying on a Melbourne radio station: '…we’re not as a matter of principle opposed to the idea of rationalising the number of awards and doing it in an orderly way. But we would only ever approach such a task … on the grounds that people not be made worse off....'

The Government’s WorkChoices document states that the reduction in the number of awards ‘will not be a wage or benefit cutting exercise’. 

However the move to simplify the award system is expected to result in more employees being forced into certified agreements or AWAs where conditions, such as penalty rates and holidays, can be traded off for higher ‘all in’ pay rates. 

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Summary of impact of IR changes on employers

 
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