Union boss attacks ACTU over modern awards

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Union boss attacks ACTU over modern awards

Claims by the ACTU that modern awards will breathe new life into Australia’s industrial relations system are ‘codswallop’, according to Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Brian Boyd.

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Claims by the ACTU that modern awards will breathe new life into Australia’s industrial relations system are ‘codswallop’, according to Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) secretary Brian Boyd.
 
In a savage attack on the Federal Labor Government, the ACTU and some other unions, Boyd said workers need to be wary of where the Rudd and Gillard IR laws are leading.
 
In his monthly column on the VTHC website, Boyd said workers could finish up worse off under modern awards.
 
He said that on 18 March 2008 IR Minister Julia Gillard had said her new IR framework ‘is about making people better off and it will’.
 
‘And I can give the guarantee that no worker from the Bill we have passed today into Australian law, will be worse off,’ she said.
 
Merely an ‘objective’
 
However, since then, both Gillard and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had said the ‘no one worse off’ promise was merely an ‘objective’.
 
‘The new re-phrasing is a worrying development,’ Boyd said.
 
He said in the offshore gas industries where workers’ rosters of ‘two weeks on and two weeks off’ has been well established, employers are seeking, via FWA, that such rosters can be altered ‘at the discretion of the employer’.
 
‘The AWU is also concerned about similar entitlement reductions being imposed on workers in the seafood and cemetery industries as well,’ Boyd said.
 
Lose $300 a week
 
‘The ASU is concerned that Airline workers could lose between $70 and $300 per week, if two existing awards were impacted on as proposed via the Award Modernisation process.’
 
He said an analysis of the aged care sector showed the award overhaul proposal for this sector indicates that such workers could lose up to $295 per week!
 
‘The CFMEU (Timber Division) is struggling with important wages and conditions threatened by the Award Modernisation process,’ Boyd said.
 
‘The ETU is expressing concern that the proposed new Award for the electrical industry will see apprentice electricians worse off. Pay cuts of up to 12%–23% will be possible under the draft proposals before FWA.'
 
‘Scurrilous campaign’
 
‘The ACTU is saying the employers are running a “scurrilous” campaign, overstating the impact of award changes in terms of costs. But in a recent opinion piece (8/9) the ACTU conceded:
“It is notable that they (the employers) have never complained of the savings many will get through the new modern awards or any of the adverse effects of the new awards on their employees.”
‘Why is the ACTU conceding this point when the government promised no one would be worse off. It gets worse. The ACTU opinion piece also concedes:
“The process of Award Modernisation has not met all the objectives that unions would have liked. We do remain concerned that workers in some industries risk losing take home pay and conditions.”
‘Remain concerned! Workers in some industries risk losing take home pay and conditions!’
 
Boyd said the new award system is supposed to be in essence a real, functioning safety net, ‘so that worthwhile overall improvements to wages and conditions can be achieved above its base line, through collective bargaining’.
 
‘No faith’
 
‘But with workers facing a 5-year transition period before any full, measurable lift in basic award wages and penalty rates may be seen and with the promise that “no worker will be worse off” now not guaranteed, who can have faith in this original, broader objective?’ he said.
 
Boyd said some in the union movement simply do not want to take on the Federal Government over the substantial ‘unfinished business’ left over from the enactment of the Fair Work Act.
 
He said Deputy Prime Minister Gillard has specifically argued that the Fair Work Act is as good as it gets and claims WorkChoices is dead.
 
‘The evidence is to the contrary,’ he said.
 
‘The current government’s legislation continues to reflect key aspects of the previous WorkChoices law. ILO conventions are also breached by the new IR laws and regulations.
 
Refuse to meet workers
 
‘Federal ALP MPs have been lobbied about these issues. Many of them, some with trade union backgrounds, often refuse to meet workers’ delegations over the ongoing concerns about the IR laws.'
 
‘The 2010 federal election is shaping up to be a completely different kettle of fish than the one in 2007.’
 
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