Minister won’t say no worker will be worse off

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Minister won’t say no worker will be worse off

The Federal Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, today twice refused to say that Australian workers would not be worse off under the Howard Government’s changes to workplace relations legislation.

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The Federal Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, today twice refused to say that Australian workers would not be worse off under the Howard Government’s changes to workplace relations legislation. 

He committed the Government to a minimum wage, but said it was not their ‘intention’ that it could be frozen for years in tougher economic times. 

New building industry commission

He also announced there would be more legislation in the latter part of the year to establish the Building and Construction Commission, which will be a regulatory body that will take over the powers of the interim Building Industry Task Force.  

Andrews was speaking to journalists after introducing legislation increasing fines for unions in the construction industry which take unlawful industrial action. The legislation also makes the unions liable for open-ended compensation for those affected by the unlawful action. It is retrospective as of today. 

No guarantee on wages

During the doorstop interview Andrews was asked whether he could give workers the same guarantee that John Howard and Peter Reith gave them in 1996 – that ‘no change the Government will make will make them worse off; that their wages and conditions won’t be cut’.

Andrews replied that the whole purpose of reform of industrial relations over the past few years, and any reform that the Government take forward in the future, is about ensuring that the prosperity for all Australians continues. 

‘As to the detail of any further reform, this matter has only just begun to be discussed by Cabinet, and it won’t be for some weeks or maybe even a month or so before we can say what we’re doing,’ he said.   

‘But can I say to Australian workers, this is about ensuring that the prosperity that you’re enjoying at the present time is something which will continue.’ 

A further question asked: ‘But you can make changes that boost productivity and prosperity across the economy, but you can still create a circumstance where an individual can have their wages cut if you change the mechanism that’s used to set minimum wages. Can you guarantee that no worker will have their wages cut as a result of what the government does?’ 

Andrews replied: ‘If we boost productivity in this country, and we boost it in different industry sectors, then what’s quite clearly been the outcome of that is higher wages for employees.

‘If you look at a sector such as the mining industry for example, or the communications sector, there is the highest productivity growth in the economy and that’s led to a win-win situation.’

Minimum wages

On minimum wages, Andrews was asked: ‘Would it be possible for minimum wages to be reduced under the reforms that government’s considering?’

‘We’re not about reducing minimum wages,’ he said. ‘We’re not about reducing minimum wages.  We will maintain minimum wages.  We will maintain a safety net.  We are looking at the mechanism by which that might be done.’

Andrews was then asked whether it is possible that workers on low wages could have their wages frozen for years at a time because of concerns about inflationary pressure building in the economy.  

‘Look, that is not the intention of the Government,’ he said.

For the full transcript go to Building and Construction Industry Improvement.

Related

Federal IR changes 2005 

 

 

 

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