ACTU developing its own IR policy for next election

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ACTU developing its own IR policy for next election

The ACTU is developing a new industrial relations policy for Australia which it will unveil 'in the next couple of months' as part of its campaign to defeat the Howard Government at the next election.

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The ACTU is developing a new industrial relations policy for Australia which it will unveil 'in the next couple of months' as part of its campaign to defeat the Howard Government at the next election.

Cath Bowtell, the ACTU's Senior Industrial Officer, told the Women, Management and Employment Relations Conference in Sydney today, the ACTU would then campaign 'not just on what we are against, but on what we are in favour of'.

She said that when enterprise agreements were introduced in 1994 there was the capacity for them to be checked for discriminatory effects on women and the award structure was maintained.

'Now, 11 years on, women are still disadvantaged compared to men, and their labour is less utilised,' she said.

Underemployment

Bowtell said there are high levels of underemployment and involuntary part time work amongst women.

She said 20% of workers were award dependent, of which 60% were women.

'The role of the AFPC is to drive the reduction of the minimum wage,' she said. 'However the OECD says there is no consistent evidence that a moderate increase in the minimum wage has an effect on employment.'

Responding to an earlier remark by AiG CEO Heather Ridout, Bowtell said she did not think 'we can convince the AFPC to address pay equity'.

No transparency

She said agreements under WorkChoices were no longer published and the no disadvantage test was gone. 'There is no transparency in the system,' she said. 'There is no scrutiny now.'

'The capacity to improve wages for women through bargaining in agreements is limited,' Bowtell said. 'All the significant changes in the way women work have been achieved through test cases.'

Bowtel said another round of bargaining in agreements would be just on 'keeping what you've got'.

'This is a waste, as it is not being spent on improving things for employees and employers,' she said.

Undermined

Bowtel said collective agreements were undermined by the fact that once they were completed employers were free to offer AWAs to individual workers who had been part of the agreement.

She said unfair dismissal cases as an alternative remedy for discrimination cases were 'cheap, quick and efficient' but unlawful dismissal cases were not.

'In unlawful cases it's a matter of get a lawyer, go to the Federal Court, and pay $30,000,' she said.

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