Number of WorkChoices complaints ‘disturbing’, says Qld Minister

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Number of WorkChoices complaints ‘disturbing’, says Qld Minister

The Queensland Government has received hundreds of calls about unfair treatment of workers and confusion regarding the new WorkChoices laws on its telephone hotline, according to the State’s IR Minister.

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The Queensland Government has received hundreds of calls about unfair treatment of workers and confusion regarding the new WorkChoices laws on its telephone hotline, according to the State’s IR Minister.

The Qld Minister for Employment, Training and Industrial Relations, Tom Barton, said that since the new WorkChoices legislation came into force on 27 March, the Queensland Department of Industrial Relations has received ‘disturbing accounts of unfair dismissals’.

Barton said the WorkChoices ‘fiasco’ has become ‘painfully apparent for many workers and their families’.

‘Our worst fears have become reality, as employees are being unfairly dismissed and exploited under the federal Government’s draconian new laws,’ he said.

However the Federal Government has accused Barton of scaremongering over the issue.

Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said Barton fails to acknowledge that under WorkChoices it is unlawful for an employer to terminate an employee’s employment on a range of discriminatory grounds, including refusing to sign an AWA.

‘This is called unlawful termination,’ Andrews said. ‘Unlawful termination provisions apply to all employees in Australia.

‘Even if employees are excluded from making unfair dismissal claims they are not excluded from making unlawful termination claims.’

Andrews said employees who believe they have been unlawfully terminated may be eligible to receive up to $4,000 of independent legal advice, based on the merits of their claim.


Some examples

Barton said some of the cases reported to the Department of Industrial Relations include:

  • A female office manager in a Southside Brisbane suburb with almost 10 years service was dismissed on 5 April for misconduct, but with little evidence to support the allegation. A few weeks prior to the dismissal, her boss allegedly told employees that under the new federal laws, he could ‘sack people if he didn’t like them’. Her employer is also refusing to pay long service leave and she has since lodged a complaint with the ACTU.
  • A male sales representative in a company on the Gold Coast with 4-5 years service injured his leg on the job on 24 March. He was told by his doctor to take time off work to recover. On 27 March, the employee returned his company vehicle and provided his employer with WorkCover documents. Later that evening he received an email from the employer terminating his employment, and a follow-up letter a week later.

‘These cases are not isolated, especially for people working for a company with 100 or fewer employees where an employer can dismiss someone on the spot without reason and without any right of appeal,’ Barton said.

‘This behaviour is unjust and is a real threat for many hardworking Queenslanders.’

Barton said that since it started operating in December, the Department of Industrial Relations’ Fair Go Advisory Service has received hundreds of calls about the confusion around the new WorkChoices laws - from both employers and employees - and about unfair treatment of workers by employers.

He said these calls do not include the thousands of inquiries about WorkChoices which have come into the Department’s Wageline service since December.

Other examples

Barton said other examples of dismissals reported to the Department include:

  • Employee dismissed after 25 years by a multi-national employer citing redundancy.
  • Man with over six years service sacked by Beenleigh firm for refusing to perform unsafe work with fibreglass.
  • Morningside man with 14 months’ service with a printing firm called at home by the employer and dismissed without reason .
  • Long-term casuals at plastic factory at Salisbury sacked without any reason or notice given.
  • Female manager in a North Queensland motel told by owner to take on extra maintenance duties or ‘finish up’.
  • Employer in the vehicle industry hired new staff on Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) before sacking existing staff.
  • Man with 13 years service made redundant (without redundancy pay) after refusing to sign an alternative employment contract which took him from a full-time employee to a three day casual employee.

Barton said cases have also been reported to the Department of Industrial Relations where the threat of dismissal has been used to force employees to take cuts in wages and conditions. These include:

  • Woman with 16 years service had her employment status changed from full-time to casual with her employer stating that her customer service skills were not up to standard
  • 17 year old apprentice told his hours had changed from 40 hours and paid overtime from Monday to Friday, to 50 plus hours with no overtime Monday to Saturday
  • Hairdressing employer keen to change employment status of staff from full-time to casual to avoid public holiday payments over Easter
  • Gold Coast restaurant employee had hourly rate reduced and overtime entitlement stripped
  • Business voluntarily sold with no warning or indication of impending job losses.

Advisory service

Barton said employees and employers can contact the Fair Go Advisory Service on 1300 737 841 for more information on the impact of the new laws or visit www.dir.qld.gov.au.

Related

WorkChoices - dismissals and protests

 

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