NSW and Vic launch anti-WorkChoices help systems

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NSW and Vic launch anti-WorkChoices help systems

NSW and Victoria have stepped in to help workers in their States assess whether they are being disadvantaged by the Federal Government’s new industrial relations system.

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NSW and Victoria have stepped in to help workers in their States assess whether they are being disadvantaged by the Federal Government’s new industrial relations system.

More and more employers are turning to AWAs to regulate their workforce, and this is likely to increase further when the WorkChoices legislation is proclaimed, supposedly late this month.

New on-line service

The NSW Minister for Industrial Relations, John Della Bosca, this week launched a new on-line service to help workers and employers ‘combat the Howard Government’s unfair workplace changes’.

Della Bosca said the Compare What’s Fair calculator would allow users to judge an AWA against existing state awards.

‘Workers can see exactly how a dollar figure presented to them under a Work Choices AWA compares with the award, and what they’re being asked to give up in exchange,’ he said.

‘Employers can quickly see if they’re offering a fair equivalent to the award, so they retain their valued staff.’

Assessing AWAs

Della Bosca said that even before the Howard Government’s WorkChoices laws come into effect, the NSW Office of Industrial Relations (OIR) has found that workers are already being asked to sign away pay and conditions.

‘Many of the AWAs examined so far have stripped away penalties for shift work, overtime, paid public holidays, provisions for jury service, bereavement leave, annual leave loading and meal, uniform and travel allowances,’ he said.

‘In developing Compare What's Fair, OIR staff reviewed a number of existing AWAs from across a range of industries and occupational groups, all of which had been registered by the Commonwealth Government.

‘Even before WorkChoices removes the so-called ‘no disadvantage test’, OIR found that workers were being asked to sign away much of their pay and conditions.

‘Most - I repeat, most - of the AWAs it examined stripped away entitlements, that is, penalties for shift work or overtime, public holidays, provisions for jury service, bereavement leave, annual leave loading and meal, uniform and travel allowances.’

Examples

Della Bosca gave the following examples of how workers have been disadvantaged:

  • a chef in a restaurant working 58 hours a week would receive $749 instead of $1069. This AWA took away paid public holidays.
  • a second year apprentice motor mechanic working a 38 hour week, plus an hour of overtime per day for a flat weekly rate of $322 instead of $530.
  • the co-ordinator of a community centre working 38 hours per week with 12 hours overtime getting $938 instead of $1566.
  • a 17-year-old casual shop assistant working 16 hours over the weekend was offered $11.23 per hour in place of the award rate of $14.16. This agreement also removed penalties and entitlements.

‘The calculator gives workers and employers a chance to make genuinely informed decisions about their workplace arrangements,’ Della Bosca said.

Features of the service

Provided by the Office of Industrial Relations, the service features:

  • a hotline for information on current award entitlements
  • a checklist of issues to consider before signing an AWA
  • a statewide program of seminars on the impact of the WorkChoices Legislation
  • a range of web resources and publications.

It can be found here.

Victoria launches watchdog

Meanwhile Victorian Industrial Relations Minister Rob Hulls has launched a new watchdog to minimise worker exploitation under WorkChoices.

Hulls said the Office of the Victorian Workplace Rights Advocate will investigate unfair employment practices and provide free telephone advice and website information to people struggling with the Federal changes.

At the launch, Hulls revealed research which he said showed Victorians fear the impact of WorkChoices.

Workplace survey

He said an Australian Research Group workplace survey of 1000 Victorian workers conducted in January and February this year found:

  • 78 per cent of Victorians were concerned about WorkChoices.
  • 76 per cent believed WorkChoices would offer no greater choice.
  • 70 per cent accepted the pay and conditions of their last job with no negotiation.
  • More than half did not feel confident about negotiating an individual contract.
  • Almost half said they would trade some conditions to keep their job.

Free information and advice

‘The research confirms that most workers take what they are offered,’ Hulls said.

‘And under WorkChoices many workers will be handed below-award wages, no penalty rates, irregular hours, no job security and reduced holidays.’

‘We will also provide through the Workplace Rights Advocate free, independent information and advice to Victorian workers trying to get a fair deal under unfair legislation.’

Hulls said Brian Corney, a public servant with a decade of experience in industrial relations under both Labor and Liberal governments, will oversee the start up of the Advocate’s services.

Corney said the Australian Research Group survey findings painted ‘a grim picture given that 70 per cent of respondents felt their skills were in demand and 37 per cent identified themselves as professionals or managers’.

‘We expected to see concern among vulnerable workers. What we found is that people earning $60,000 share the same concerns as people earning $21,000 a year,’ he said.

Contact

The Workplace Rights Advocate phone advice service can be contacted on 1300 882 648.

The web address is: http://www.workplacerights.vic.gov.au

 

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