Workplace protection just ‘smoke and mirrors’, says  top lawyer

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Workplace protection just ‘smoke and mirrors’, says top lawyer

A partner in one of the law firms hired by the Australian Government to write the new industrial relations laws has admitted ‘protections’ under the laws for employee rights such as penalty rates are just ‘smoke and mirrors’.

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A partner in one of the law firms hired by the Australian Government to write the new industrial relations laws has admitted ‘protections’ under the laws for employee rights such as penalty rates are just ‘smoke and mirrors’.

Competitive environment

Freehills partner Anthony Longland also warned employers that unless they use the new workplace laws to cut labour costs and abolish penalty rates a competitor might gain an advantage by getting in first.

‘They might be able to get a significant advantage over you in terms of labour costs’ he reportedly said.

Longland’s comments were reported in the Australian newspaper today.

WorkChoices agreements can override

He is reported as stating that award provisions such as penalty rates for shift work, overtime, weekend and public holiday work were ‘protected but not protected’ because they could be abolished by the employer if they were specifically over-ridden by a WorkChoices agreement.

ACTU comment

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said that Longland would have first-hand knowledge of how to cut employee pay packets under the new laws because his firm had been involved in writing them.

‘Freehills has a track record of attacking workers’ rights and siding with big business, and that’s why the Government used Freehills to help write the new industrial relations laws’ said Combet.

‘$55 million of taxpayers’ money was spent on deceitful ads telling people their rights were protected by law. All along it was a lie. Now even the people who wrote the laws are admitting it’s all ‘smoke and mirrors’.

Combet said he agreed with Longland’s comments – ‘it’s what the ACTU has been saying from the outset’.

Cowra abattoir - example

In one of the first examples of WorkChoices in action, 29 workers at the Cowra Abattoir in central western NSW were sacked last week and then offered their jobs back at a lower rate of pay.

The workers will be paid out their entitlements and invited to re-apply to the abattoir for 20 jobs on new employment contracts that involve pay cuts of up to $180 a week and the loss of current performance bonuses.

The ACTU said the base rate of pay for the meatworkers is currently $764 a week and would reduce to $578 a week under the company’s plans.

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