We underestimated Howard’s extremism. Under WorkChoices, a collective agreement can be wiped out on an employer`s whim.
NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes says, at its heart, WorkChoices is an overt attack on collective bargaining.
‘It will be very difficult for employees to achieve a collective agreement unless an employer voluntarily chooses to cooperate,’ he said.
Far from ‘protecting by law’ the right to a collective agreement, WorkChoices provides three simple means for an employer to get out of one:
The ultimate flexibility for employers
As predicted, the new laws abolish all unfair dismissal protection for 3.7 million workers employed in businesses with 100 or less staff. The government has also created an open-ended opportunity for employers to get rid of staff for ‘operational reasons’, even in companies with more than 100 staff.
The Industrial Relations Commission will be reduced to a shell. The government proposes to take away almost all of the Commission’s powers including the power to arbitrate disputes. It will be left as little more than a voluntary mediation service.
No longer will there be an annual national wage case to improve minimum wages, and unions will have no involvement in the Fair Pay Commission that sets them instead of the current process. Minimum wages will be set by economists appointed by the Howard government.
NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes says many of the changes will be a slow burn that will take some time to impact on many workers but nurses should be in no doubt of what the new laws mean.
‘John Howard has taken an axe to an industrial relations system that has given workers a say and some fairness in their workplace for over 100 years. He never explained to Australians before the last election that he had this intention. He has failed to make any economic case for these radical changes,’ he said.
Seek and you shall be fined $33,000
Far from ‘protecting them by law’, WorkChoices will make many legitimate union activities illegal.
Union officials, delegates and employees will be fined up to $33,000 simply for asking an employer to include in an enterprise agreement a provision to:
Brett Holmes, NSWNA General Secretary
Plenty of nasties for nurses in WorkChoices
There are aspects of John Howard’s new laws that will impact directly on nurses:
$55 million and counting
Part one of the federal government’s IR advertising blitz is over, taxpayers are at least $55 million lighter in the pocket – and the exact figure is still somewhere out there, say advertising experts.
The government’s blunt barrage is being parroted on our TV screens in an equally unsubtle campaign by the Business Council of Australia, which has forked out $6 million advocating for more power for employers.
One advertising expert, John Sintras, head of the Media Federation of Australia, told The Australian that the government’s level of spending on its WorkChoices ads was unprecedented.
‘I’m stuffed if I can think of someone who has launched at that kind of weight; $7 million is what most people spend in a year. Not even Telstra or Coles spend at that rate,’ he said.
Some elements of the government’s media campaign border on farce:
A view – widely expressed by the union movement and the Labor Party that the ads are about peddling Liberal Party propaganda – is also finding resonance in the advertising industry.
‘They haven’t been nervous about trying to spend their way out of trouble when they think they are behind the eight ball,’ a media buyer told The Daily Telegraph.
What $55 million buys if spent responsibly
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