IR changes will mean ‘wholesale loss of workers’ rights’, says economist

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IR changes will mean ‘wholesale loss of workers’ rights’, says economist

In a savage attack on the Federal Government’s IR changes, a leading academic economist says the next economic downturn - ‘which is not too far away’ - will see a wholesale loss of workers’ rights.

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In a savage attack on the Federal Government’s IR changes, a leading academic economist says the next economic downturn - ‘which is not too far away’ - will see a wholesale loss of workers’ rights.

Professor Bill Mitchell, Professor of Economics at Newcastle University, told the 'Fair Go or Anything Goes' conference in Sydney last week there would be ‘take it or leave it’ AWAs and workers will have to cash out two weeks of their annual leave.

‘And once they lose it, it is hard to get it back,’ he said.

‘New Zealand has just reintroduced four weeks leave, and it took nine years to get it back and doesn’t start until 2007,’ he said.

‘We will see wholesale loss of workers' rights at the bottom of the cycle.’

Fair Pay Commission would entrench low pay

Professor Mitchell said the Fair Pay Commission won’t cut wages but it will ‘stagger out the adjustments’.

‘The last change to the minimum rates in the US was in 1997,’ he said. ‘Wages will be cut over time by caprice.’

Professor Mitchell said the government and the ALP one before it have acted like ‘schoolyard bullies’ on the disadvantaged, calling them ‘job snobs’ and ‘dole bludgers’.

‘These new changes act on a much wider community, and they won’t be able to be abused like the others,’ he said.

He said the Federal Government is running an economy obsessed with budget surpluses so there has not been a big enough rise in employment and there are now skills shortages.

‘There has been a lack of investment in people by government and private industry,’ he said. ‘We have now got a household sector more indebted than any before, and people are more vulnerable and insecure ... The Reserve Bank knows any interest rate increase would drive many families broke.’

'Employment myth'

He said an ‘employment myth’ had been created that there would be 70,000 jobs created through the unfair dismissal changes.

‘John Howard says there is evidence for this, and Peter Hendy [ACCI Chief Executive] does too, but he is a previous employee of Peter Reith and as thick as thieves with the government.’

Professor Mitchell said capitalism was a very efficient form of production and there was no sign of under-production because employers ‘are too frightened to hire employees because it is too difficult to sack them’.

He said economic reform began with the Harvester judgement [introducing the living wage], ‘which basically stated that some things are too important to be left to the market’.

‘There have to be certain safeguards,’ Professor Mitchell said. ‘These changes will undermine this’.

Other reports from the 'Fair Go or Anything Goes' conference

Govt’s IR laws have problems - even for the ‘new’ worker

‘Revolutionary’ national IR scheme will be more complex, conference told

National IR system may take 10 years to get through High Court

National IR system would save business millions, ABL chief says

Former public servant slams DEWR use of AWAs as ‘reprehensible’
 

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