WorkChoices first month a ‘disaster’, claims NSW Minister

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WorkChoices first month a ‘disaster’, claims NSW Minister

The NSW hotline on the Federal WorkChoices legislation has received 15,000 calls, ‘mostly from distressed workers’, according to NSW Minister for Industrial Relations, John Della Bosca.

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The NSW hotline on the Federal WorkChoices legislation has received 15,000 calls, ‘mostly from distressed workers’, according to NSW Minister for Industrial Relations, John Della Bosca.

Della Bosca said that in the four weeks since the introduction of the new IR laws the majority of calls received by the NSW Office of Industrial Relations advice line have been from workers who have lost entitlements.

However Federal Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said workers who call the hotline should instead be ringing the Office of Workplace Services (OWS), which is responsible for enforcing the WorkChoices legislation.

Dismissal issues

Della Bosca said a number of those calling the hotline had been dismissed without notice or explanation, and many more were facing the sack if they complained about contracts that stripped away award conditions.

‘Many said they felt ripped off, but were powerless to act for fear of being dismissed,’ he said.

‘We have even had a call from a Newcastle woman whose husband has been told he would be sacked if he asked for time off to attend the birth of their child.’

Della Bosca said it was disturbing that in a number of cases employers were not offering any sort of legal contract, but simply declaring the new conditions as a ‘take it or leave it offer’.

‘It is clear Work Choices has made it a free for all for many unscrupulous employers,’ he said.

Examples of dismissals

Della Bosca said examples of sackings from around the State received by the advice line include:

  • a hairdresser from East Sydney, dismissed without notice after 5 years with her employer. The single mother is now trying to recover unpaid leave entitlements
  • a bar worker from Cobar sacked without reason after 3 years, now trying to recover redundancy entitlements
  • a Lithgow meat worker sacked after an injury at work
  • a machine operator from Revesby, sacked after 2 years work for asking for two days off, now trying to recover unpaid wages
  • a towbar fitter from Rutherford, sacked after requesting light duties following a work injury
  • a photocopier technician from Wollongong, sacked after a traffic incident
  • a driver from Narellan, sacked after a disagreement with his employer, who then said under the new laws he can withhold 6 weeks pay, and
  • an employee at a Gosford auto repairs business, sacked without notice.

‘Anyone who feels they’ve been ripped off or sacked unfairly should call the Fair Go Advisory Service on 131 628,’ Della Bosca said.

Andrews: Contact OWS

However Andrews said employees facing problems at work would be better off calling the Office of Workplace Services (OWS).

‘Unlike the OWS, Della Bosca’s Fair Go Advisory Service does not have the power to investigate the concerns of those covered by the new WorkChoices system,’ Andrews said.

‘Worse still, callers with genuine concerns about their workplace conditions do not get referred to the Office of Workplace Services when they call the Fair Go Advisory Service.

'If Della Bosca was genuinely concerned about New South Wales workers then he would recommend employees and employers contact the Office of Workplace Services.'

Unlawful dismissal

Referring to the example of an employee being told that if he requests leave to attend the birth of his baby he will be sacked, Andrews said this was a case of unlawful termination.

‘Even if employees are excluded from making unfair dismissal claims they are not excluded from making unlawful termination claims,’ Andrews said. ‘An employee can apply to the AIRC if they believe their employment was terminated for an unlawful reason.’

OWS contact details

He said people wishing to get information or assistance should call the WorkChoices Infoline on 1300 363 264 or visit the OWS website at www.ows.gov.au.

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