Reaction to IR changes - union petition and OEA on bypassing entitlements

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Reaction to IR changes - union petition and OEA on bypassing entitlements

The ACTU yesterday presented a petition with around 160,000 signatures calling on Federal Parliament not to pass new workplace laws.

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The ACTU yesterday presented a petition with around 160,000 signatures calling on Federal Parliament not to pass new workplace laws. Meanwhile the Howard Government’s Office of the Employment Advocate (OEA) is offering website advice to employers on how to bypass ‘protections’ for workers’ entitlements in its own IR changes, Unions NSW says. 

160,000 sign ACTU petition opposing IR law changes 

The ACTU yesterday presented a petition with around 160,000 signatures calling on Federal Parliament not to pass new workplace laws. 

The ACTU says the new laws, details of which were announced on Sunday, will allow workers to be pushed onto individual contracts that cut their take-home pay and remove important job conditions including overtime, meal breaks, penalty rates, redundancy pay, rostering protections and public holidays.

Public opposition

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the petition represents widespread public opposition to the Howard Government’s ‘extreme industrial relations agenda’. 

‘Unions collected these signatures in just a few months,’ she said. ‘But even so, this could be the biggest expression of public opposition in the House of Representatives since a petition concerning beer and taxes was lodged five years ago.’ 

The petition calls for Parliament to protect the basic rights of Australian workers to decent minimum wages and awards conditions, protection from unfair dismissal and the right to reject AWA individual contracts and negotiate collectively with employers.  

In a comment on the IR changes, ACTU Secretary Greg Combet, said that to call the package WorkChoices ‘is the greatest farce perpetrated in politics for some time’.

‘The only choice that working people will have in the Howard Government’s new world will be a choice between inferior conditions, or the door,’ he said. 

Govt advising how to get around its own IR rules, say unions 

The Howard Government’s Office of the Employment Advocate (OEA) is offering website advice to employers on how to bypass ‘protections’ for workers’ entitlements in its own IR changes, Unions NSW says.

 

Freeing employers of obligations

Templates on the site clearly show how employers can arrange for employees to cash out holidays and long service leave. Penalty rates are also up for negotiation. 

On Sunday Prime Minister John Howard announced he was protecting annual leave, meal breaks and penalty rates where AWAs were silent on the issue. 

But Unions NSW secretary John Robertson said the OEA website provided template agreements with wording that would free employers of any such obligation.

‘The fact that the government is advertising how to get around his flimsy protections shows what a farce the so-called softening of the laws actually is,’ Robertson said. 

‘The bottom line is that any employer will be able to offer contracts that trade-off all penalty rates and place meal breaks and annual leave at the discretion of the employer.

‘And the idea of choice is a sham - the government’s own departments are now hiring workers on a no contract, no job basis.’ 

Upcoming acirrt conference

On 28 October acirrt will present a Sydney conference focusing on the new IR landscape titled 'Managing workplace uncertainty: current challenges and new directions'.

Australian workplaces face an increasingly uncertain future. Labour law is being totally recast. Recruitment and retention problems mean many organizations lack skills critical for the future. The challenges of managing remuneration increase as options for salary packaging and choice over forms of agreement multiple.

See the acirrt site for details on the conference.

Related 

Federal IR changes  

 

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