WorkChoices critics are Labor and union 'plants', suggests Howard

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WorkChoices critics are Labor and union 'plants', suggests Howard

Prime Minister John Howard has suggested that workers ringing talk-back radio to complain about losing penalty rates under WorkChoices are 'put up to it' by his political opponents.

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Prime Minister John Howard has suggested that workers ringing talk-back radio to complain about losing penalty rates under WorkChoices are 'put up to it' by his political opponents.

Howard was told on Brisbane radio 4BC yesterday that: 'We take a lot of calls from the ordinary worker who says that he no longer gets time and half or double time on holidays'.

'Do you get a lot of those do you?' he asked. Told they do, Howard replied 'Are you sure ... I mean, you don't think any of them are …' 'Put ups?', suggested the interviewer.

'I'm not saying they are, I'm not disputing that, but it has been known for people to do that,' continued Howard.

'Can't be all folklore'

'Sure, but surely it can't all be folklore, surely there are people out there who are suffering, who aren't getting their time and a half,' the interviewer said.

'Well the overall figures don't indicate that,' replied Howard. 'The overall figures do indicate that over the last year real wages have continued to grow, and there seems to be anecdotal evidence on the other side.

'I saw something in the paper this morning suggesting that these AWAs that the local councils are going to adopt would lead to significant wage increases and, I mean, sometimes what occurs is, instead of people being paid penalty rates, what they get paid is higher wage.

'And that provides much more flexibility. Now in my opinion, if you're paid a higher wage and some of it's not specifically attributed to a penalty rate then that's not making you worse off, you still, at the end of the day, get the same amount of money, or perhaps an even increased amount of money, and that's the advantage of some of the AWAs.'

'Knocking you around'

It was put to Howard that whether the claims were 'fact or folklore, it's knocking you around, it's a perception'.

Howard put this down to a 'big' campaign being run against the WorkChoices laws by the Labor Party, federally and by the eight State and Territory Labor governments.

He also repeated the claim, floated yesterday by Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey, that the campaign was backed by 'probably up to $100m of advertising, when you throw in the union movement'.

Hockey was subsequently forced to admit that this '$100m' included the cost of the States running their High Court case against the WorkChoices laws, the normal donations made by unions to the ALP, and even the sale of some union property.

Winning the PR war

'But they're winning the PR war, because that's the perception we're getting, they feel like they've been done over,' said the interviewer.

'Well in the end, whether they win the PR war will be determined at the time of the election,' Howard said, going on to point out the current low unemployment rates, increase in jobs and very low strike rates as evidence of the success of WorkChoices.

The ACTU responded to the interview by attacking Howard's claim that many workers on AWA individual contracts were being paid the same or higher wages despite losing penalty rates.

ACTU says evidence is 'otherwise'

ACTU President, Sharan Burrow, said the evidence shows otherwise.

'Contrary to the PM's claim, official Government data shows that one in five (22%) AWA individual contracts registered under the new laws provide no pay rise for the life of the contract which could be up to five years,' she said. 'Other award conditions such as penalty rates, overtime pay, public holiday payments, annual leave loadings and shift work payments are also being abolished at an alarming rate by AWAs under the new IR laws.'

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