Govt planning new IR cuts with 'WorkChoices II',  		claims ACTU

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Govt planning new IR cuts with 'WorkChoices II', claims ACTU

The ACTU has accused the Federal Government of planning 'WorkChoices II' that would allow AWAs to cut sick leave entitlement to five days and the cashing out of all annual leave.

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The ACTU has accused the Federal Government of planning 'WorkChoices II' that would allow AWAs to cut sick leave entitlement to five days and the cashing out of all annual leave.

The ACTU claims it has obtained a leaked agenda and discussion papers for talks between the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and the Federal Government which contain 'big business plans for a new wave of IR reforms'.

Further cuts

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said today the Howard Government is 'secretly discussing' with ACCI plans that may see employees no longer be able to accrue leave while on workers' compensation and an end to the requirement to give pregnant employees paid leave if they can't be moved to a safe job.

'These documents show that there are secret discussions between the business lobby and the Government to further attack the basic rights of Australian workers.'

Combet said Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews needs to 'come clean and explain whether he met with the ACCI last week to discuss business proposals for more IR changes that would further cut the wages and conditions of employees'.

He said the documents also detail changes that would remove the limit of the length of the standard working week in workplace agreements.

'Together, these proposals would mean that all working Australians would be in danger of being put onto an AWA individual contract that cuts their sick leave to just five days a year, takes away their annual holidays and has no limit on the hours they have to work each week,' Combet said.

Key proposals

The ACTU said the key elements of the ACCI proposals include:

  • 38 hour week: Removing the limit on the length of the standard working week (currently 38 hours) in workplace agreements. The plan specifically proposes to amend the current IR law so that all hours worked in excess of 38 hours are 'presumed to be reasonable unless an employee complainant can prove otherwise'.
  • Personal leave: Allowing AWA individual contracts to override the legal minimum standard and only provide employees with five days sick/personal leave instead of the current 10 days and to cap entitlements to unpaid leave to care for a sick child or family member.
  • Annual leave: Allowing all four weeks of annual leave to be 'cashed out', instead of the current two weeks maximum. Also, regular weekend shift workers would lose their current entitlement to a fifth week of annual leave that compensates them for working unsocial hours.
  • Parental leave: Considering proposals to allow AWA individual contracts to override the legal minimum standard and trade off their parental leave entitlement to 12 months unpaid leave after the birth of a child.
  • Minimum wages: Enabling employers to cut the wages of low paid employees on State awards by $20 a week in NSW and WA and by $17 a week in SA [following recent State minimum wages adjustments] as a result of a proposal to allow businesses to enter the new federal system at will.

Other aims

The documents also reveal that ACCI wants:

  • Employers to have the 'unambiguous right' to stand-down workers.
  • Employees to no longer be able to accrue leave while on workers' compensation payments.
  • An end to the requirement to give pregnant employees paid leave if they can't be moved to a safe job.
  • Employers to be able to immediately hire casuals on AWAs without them having the required seven days to read the agreement before it is signed.
  • Employees having to provide the same notice period when resigning as employers do when giving notice of termination (an anomaly in WorkChoices currently means employees do not have to give notice).
  • The details of all collective agreements to continue to be published.

ACCI clarification

 

ACCI CEO Peter Hendy said today that a meeting with the Federal Government did take place to discuss the implementation of WorkChoices after an initial three months of operation, which he says is 'entirely unremarkable' given the scale of the reforms.

 

However, he denied that employers were seeking the cashing out of all annual leave, any changes to overtime pay or the 38 hour working week, cutting access to parental leave and reducing minimum wages.
 

Beazley comments

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said it was clear that 'John Howard is not finished with the Australian people yet'.

'If he gets re-elected he's going to re-visit this, at least in period of time that he has Senate control,' Beazley said. 'And we are going to get even more extreme laws.

'Howard has done is take our laws to an extreme and he's left the vast centre, where commonsense Australians stand, expecting that they'll get decent overtime; expecting that they'll get decent maternity leave; expecting they won't be unfairly dismissed.

'John Howard is planning his next assault with the Chamber of Commerce, but we will stop him.'

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