Hockey: good news, bad news

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Hockey: good news, bad news

Payment of the outstanding wages of the McArthur Transport workers whose company has gone into receivership had been the subject of an attempted 'fast-track' by Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey. Meanwhile the Minister has been told to stop smearing academics who produce inconvenient reports, and instead address the issues they raise about the impact of WorkChoices on workers' lives.

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Payment of the outstanding wages of the McArthur Transport workers whose company has gone into receivership had been the subject of an attempted 'fast-track' by Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey. Meanwhile the Minister has been told to stop smearing academics who produce inconvenient reports, and instead address the issues they raise about the impact of WorkChoices on workers' lives.

Hockey attempts to fast-track help for McArthur workers

Payment of the outstanding wages of the McArthur Transport workers whose company has gone into receivership had been the subject of an attempted 'fast-track' Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey.

The McArthur Transport employees were thought eligible under the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme (GEERS), which pays lost entitlements up to a cap of 16 weeks' pay. Any entitlements above that will come out of the proceeds of the receivership, if any. Subsequent advice received by the Minister has now resulted in his call to the NSW Government to assist the workers.

Information session

And the workers yesterday attended an information session where they were given information on their entitlements, along with advice from Centrelink about how providers of Australian Government Employment Services can assist them with getting back into work.

Hockey said the Workplace Ombudsman and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission were being briefed on the situation, and further information is being sought from the Administrator on the circumstances of the collapse of the company.

'Workers will be provided with all of their outstanding wages as a matter of urgency and my Department is working closely with the Receiver and the Administrators to ensure residual entitlements are calculated and provided to these workers as soon as possible,' he said.

However the Minister later changed his approach because due to exemptions from the WorkChoices laws, owner-drivers in NSW are covered by State industrial laws, and do not qualify for payments from the Federal Government's General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme.

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Hockey told 'stop smearing academics' over AWA report

Meanwhile the Workplace Relations Minister has been told to stop smearing academics who produce inconvenient reports, and instead address the issues they raise about the impact of WorkChoices on workers' lives.

A major new report, Australia@Work, released yesterday, showed that low-skilled workers had been badly hit by the Federal Government's IR laws.

In response Hockey tried to cast doubt on the credibility of the report, which he said had been produced by 'union-friendly academics', despite the fact that it was partly funded by a Federal Government agency.

'I will note that it was commissioned only recently and it was meant to be four-year research, but these former trade union officials who are parading as academics suddenly release it just before the election,' he told ABC radio.

'Look at the motives'

'You have to look at their motives, and sure enough you can identify what their real intentions are.'

He said there had been some 14 'union-funded, union-commissioned' reports into WorkChoices. Hockey has attacked the authors of all of them.

Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello, also said the study was 'contaminated' and lacks credibility because it was funded by unions who want a change of government.

Unions NSW Secretary, John Robertson, said Hockey should end his smear campaign against Australian academics and confront the findings of the impact of WorkChoices.

Robertson said that instead of debating findings that AWAs were delivering wages $100 a week less than comparable collective agreements, Hockey had personally attacked the researchers as 'former trade union officials parading as academics'.

Convenient way of ignoring report

He said accusations the report was biased were a convenient way of ignoring the facts behind the report.

These include that:

  • The Australians@Work research was jointly funded by the Federal Government's Australia Research Council under the stewardship of Education Minister Julie Bishop
  • the findings are rigorous and will be subject to peer review
  • the lead researcher, Dr Brigid Van Wanrooy, is a career social researcher who trained in DEWRS under Peter Reith before undertaking her doctorate at the Australian National University. She has never worked for a trade union.

'The facts are that the researchers approached Unions NSW with the idea of a long-term study of working life - there is no political spin, just data,' Robertson said. 'By disparaging researchers Hockey is not just trivialising the experiences of thousands of Australian workers, he is also attempting to create a culture of fear for academics.

'The role of academics is to place Government policy under rigorous scrutiny - the Minister's response to this scrutiny says more about the findings than anything else.'

Comprehensive report

Opposition IR spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, said that 'when the Government doesn't like the study they criticise the academics'.

'But this is the University of Sydney, this is a comprehensive study and I just don't think that they can dispute the conclusion that if you're on an AWA, one of [Prime Minister John] Howard's individual contracts, then on average you're earning $106 less a week than someone on a collective agreement,' she said.

Related

WorkChoices hits low-skilled workers hard: major study
 

 

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