WorkChoices: Dead. Buried. Resurrected.
The Boss has alerted us to a new report that shows that despite earlier assurances (and a written contract) that WorkChoices was “dead, buried and cremated,” the Abbott Government is planning to take the axe to penalty rates as the industrial umpire launches a new investigation into the current awards system.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is warning millions of workers could receive less money in their pay packets if penalty rates are cut.
The Coalition has encouraged the Fair Work Commission to carefully consider the “softening economic environment and labour market” as it reviews the modern awards system.
“In particular, the Commission should consider the impact of employment costs on employers’ decision to hire workers over the next four years,” it has warned in its submission.
The government also wants the system to be simpler, arguing modern awards are full of “a high degree of detail and can be difficult to interpret”.
“They can be particularly confusing for small business operators and individual employees who generally do not have specialist workplace relations experience,” it says.
The industrial umpire is undertaking its four-yearly review into the modern awards system and will hold its first conference today.
The Government acknowledges “significant changes” could be made as a result.
Labor believes the Coalition wants to cut penalty rates, arguing it is trying to “lean on” the Commission.
Mr Shorten has described the submission as a “radical proposal”, which he believes shows the Abbott Government wants to cut penalty rates and working conditions.
“Families are already struggling with cost of living pressures from this government – higher health insurance premiums, scrapping the Schoolkids Bonus and flagging a GP Tax,” Mr Shorten said.
“Not only does this government want to drive Australian jobs overseas – like we’ve seen with their disastrous decisions on Holden and SPC – they want to attack the pay and conditions of workers.”
Shadow Employment Minister Brendan O’Connor claims the government promised before the election it would not undermine employment conditions.
“But I’m afraid it’s clear now that as far as Tony Abbott was concerned, WorkChoices was not cremated, it had just been sedated until he was elected to embark upon a radical shift in the industrial relations landscape,” Mr O’Connor told The Gutter Trash this morning.
Unions are angered, warning the Government’s submission shows it will again back big business at the expense of the most vulnerable and lowest paid workers.
“It is unacceptable for the government to continue scapegoating workers for its own failures to protect jobs and industries, and workers will see this for what it is: a blatant campaign to cut wages and conditions of working Australians,” ACTU Assistant Secretary Tim Lyons said.
“Tony Abbott came to Government saying there would not be a return to WorkChoices but his actions make one thing clear – this is not a government that will look after working people.”
Included in the ACTU’s submission are requests to tighten the definition of a casual employee and to better lock in their conditions, as well as those of apprentices.
A spokesperson from Employment Minister Eric Abetz’s office said the Fair Work Commission will consider all of the evidence before making decisions over the course of the year.
“The Government encourages anyone who has concerns about the current Modern Awards to make a submission to the Fair Work Commissions review,” he said.