Workers' anger at Howard's IR laws a 'vote changer', says ALP

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Workers' anger at Howard's IR laws a 'vote changer', says ALP

A recent poll showing increasing disenchantment with the Federal Government's IR laws mean they will be a 'vote changer' at the next election, according to Labor's IR spokeswoman, Julia Gillard.

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A recent poll showing increasing disenchantment with the Federal Government's IR laws mean they will be a 'vote changer' at the next election, according to Labor's IR spokeswoman, Julia Gillard.

In a succession of media interviews Gillard said there would be a number of issues at the next election, 'but industrial relations will be in the mix, and it will be a vote changer'.

She said the NewsPoll, published in The Australian, 'showed 33% of voters believe the Howard Government's industrial relations laws will be personally detrimental, and in addition, 47% believe the IR changes are bad for the economy'.

Gillard said that an earlier poll had shown that 40% of Australians knew someone who had been hurt by the Government's IR policies.

'People have been hurt'

'It is weighing on people's minds and people have been directly hurt, and they're worried about the prospects of others being hurt, particularly their children,' she said.

Gillard said she was 'a big believer in flexibility', but not 'in the fairytales that Prime Minister Howard and others have tried to tell us about Australian Workplace Agreements'.

'They would have you believe that employers and individual employees have sat down and worked out an agreement just for that employee,' she said. 'The truth, as we know it, is that employers write one Australian Workplace Agreement, they put it on the photocopier 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 times and then they hand it out to employees and it's a take it or leave it deal.

No individual flexibility

'There's actually no individually negotiated element to it. Now that's not flexibility. Flexibility is truly about employers and employees and their unions, if people want to be represented by a union, sitting around a table and working through what's best for that enterprise and the people who work within it and the employer who owns it.'

Gillard said Labor was concerned that the five minimum conditions that are available under the Howard Government's WorkChoices laws aren't enough.

'I am particularly concerned that the hours clause is really an illusion,' she said. 'What it says is that you can work a 38 hour week but it is all done as an average, so there is nothing to stop you literally working 100 hours this week and nothing next week, provided over time the average comes out right.'

Family friendly

Gillard said Labor would be looking at ways of making working conditions more 'family friendly' for people.

'I am not in the business of heavy-handed regulation, I am not in the business of stopping workers and employers doing what they genuinely agree to do,' she said. 'But I do believe that working people are entitled to a safety net that protects basic conditions and John Howard has ripped that away.'

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