Opposition’s IR policies in firing line


Opposition’s IR policies in firing line

Abetz ducks penalty rates issue; nurses could lose $180 a shift; 2.3 million workers to lose job protection under Libs: ACTU.


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Abetz ducks penalty rates issue; nurses could lose $180 a shift; 2.3 million workers to lose job protection under Libs: ACTU.
Abetz ducks penalty rates issue; nurses could lose $180 a shift
The Opposition has refused to rule out cutting or removing penalty rates if they win government, while the nurses union said this could cost its members who work weekends up to $180 per shift.
Shadow IR spokesman Eric Abetz was asked six times on Sky TV whether the Coalition would remove penalty rates but all Abetz would say was that in government they would not be ‘legislating to abolish penalty rates’.
Asked whether they would try to ‘wind them back’ Abetz would not say, claiming the Opposition’s workplace policy was still being developed.
IR Minister Julia Gillard said Senator Abetz could have cleared up any confusion with a simple, clear answer but, instead, he chose to avoid the question time after time.
‘Abbott should come out today and do what his spokesperson wouldn’t,’ she said.
‘He should guarantee that penalty rates and overtime won’t be abolished, wound back or reduced in any way.’
Serious threat
‘If not, Australian workers can only draw one conclusion. It Abbott becomes Prime Minister then the penalty rates millions of Australians rely on week to week to make ends are under serious threat.’
‘If Abbott gets his way, as he first revealed at a business lunch last Friday, unfair dismissal laws will be abolished for more than two million Australians so if they complain about their loss of penalty rates they could be sacked on the spot.’
The Australian Nursing Federation said the Opposition’s talk of cutting penalty rates would, in practice, hurt nurses working weekends and late-night shifts.
Haven’t learnt from mistakes
ANF federal secretary Ged Kearney said she was shocked that the Opposition still hadn’t learnt from previous mistakes and, instead, was expressing a preference to abolish some penalty rates.
‘The coalition appear to be holding a candle for WorkChoices and would, if they had the opportunity, once again strip workers of their rights,’ she said.
‘If penalty rates were cut you would have nurses who work tough weekend shifts in emergency departments or intensive care losing hundreds of dollars from their pay.’
‘Nurses could lose up to nearly $36 a shift on weekdays and up to $180 per shift on weekends.’
‘The fact the Opposition are publicly discussing cutting penalty rates should put fear into the heart of all workers. Such unfair policy shows the Opposition remains out of touch with workers.’
Arduous shifts
‘Penalty rates are there for a reason. They are paid to workers who work unsociable and arduous shifts with minimum staffing levels. Cutting penalty rates would tell those workers that their time is not valuable.’
Kearney, who will be the next ACTU president, also commented on the award modernisation process and fears employers would cut the wages of aged care workers in New South Wales and Queensland.
‘The ANF will be using every avenue under the Fair Work Act to prosecute employers who cut nurse wages. We are monitoring the situation very closely to ensure no nurse is worse off,’ she said.
2.3 million workers to lose job protection under Libs: ACTU
The ACTU says more than 2.3 million workers — almost one in four — will lose protection from unfair dismissal under the Liberal ‘WorkChoices Mark II’ industrial relations plans.
The Opposition has made it clear it would remove unfair dismissal protection for workers where there are fewer than 20 employees, if they win government at the next election. 

ACTU president Sharan Burrow said the Liberals’ plan, which was confirmed by the Opposition’s Workplace spokesman Eric Abetz in media reports this week, would exempt 9 out of 10 businesses from unfair dismissal laws.
‘Sack on a whim’
They would have the freedom to sack workers on a whim, Burrow said.
Under the Fair Work Act 2009, all workers are protected from unfair dismissal, subject to a qualifying period.
‘Under WorkChoices, many young people, women and other vulnerable workers were sacked unfairly,’ Burrow said.
‘Now, they are at risk again. No matter how long you have been employed, how loyal your service, if you work for a business of fewer than 20 staff, you could be sacked without notice under the plans of Tony Abbott and Eric Abetz.’
‘This comes on top of their proposals to reintroduce WorkChoices-style individual contracts, rip apart the award system that protects wages and conditions, and cut penalty rates.’
Can’t be trusted’
‘The Liberals simply cannot be trusted by Australian workers, and no-one is fooled by changing the name of WorkChoices.’
Thirty-two per cent of 2099 voters in a recent ACTU poll said less protection from unfair dismissal was their second highest concern under a Liberal Government. The highest concern was potential cuts to wages and conditions.
Burrow said the Liberals have already signalled they will target wages and conditions, beginning with penalty rates, which many workers rely on to supplement their family income.
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