Contractors law threatens pay and conditions of all,  		says ACTU

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Contractors law threatens pay and conditions of all, says ACTU

New independent contractor laws introduced into Federal Parliament last week are a threat to the take home pay of both contractors and employees alike, says the ACTU.

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New independent contractor laws introduced into Federal Parliament last week are a threat to the take home pay of both contractors and employees alike, says the ACTU.

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said the new laws will give big business the power to push down contract rates.

'Already we have seen the Howard Government's new IR laws make it easier for employers to sack their permanent staff and re-employ them on contracts with lower wages and conditions,' Combet said. 'The Government now proposes to take this a step further with a new law that continues to give big business the upper hand in pay negotiations and fails to protect contractors who wish to bargain collectively.'

No rise for 10 years

Combet said technicians installing for Foxtel have not had an increase in their contract rates for the last ten years.

'The technicians pay for all their materials, a van, tools and petrol, and while the cost of living has gone up by more than 25% in that time, they have not had a pay increase,' he said. 'A union strike by technicians in 2003 helped prevent a proposed 20% cut in their pay rates by Foxtel.

'Owner-drivers delivering Tooheys beer are also currently facing a 42% pay cut when Linfox takes control of the prime contract from 1 July this year.'

Sham arrangements

Combet said unions are also concerned that the proposed laws will fail to prevent employers from pushing more workers into sham contracting arrangements where employees miss out on award rates of pay, annual leave, superannuation, workers compensation and other basic entitlements.

'Last week it was reported that a major catering company was recruiting 14 year old youths to work as so-called independent contractors, selling hot pies and ice creams at AFL games at the MCG, for a commission of only 10% of sales,' he said.

'This is sheer exploitation and an outrageous abuse of contracting laws.

'The fact is that many so-called contractors would prefer to be permanent employees receiving a decent wage and standard job entitlements.'

One employer

Combet said a study by Melbourne University found that of around one million estimated small contractors in Australia, up to 40% are actually dependent on the one employer.

'Contracting is often not what it's cracked up to be and these new laws will make it harder for small contractors and employees to maintain decent pay and employment conditions,' he said.

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