Friday 16th December 2005
Howard’s IR plans will erode the minimum wage and retiree incomes.
Workers aren’t the only ones in line to be hammered by the Howard government’s changes to industrial relations. A consequence of a lower minimum wage is that Australia’s 3.5 million pensioners will also face cuts to their benefits.
At present, age and veterans’ pensions are indexed at 25% of male average weekly earnings. Until now, this system has delivered pensioners real increases above inflation. However, lower minimum wages will lead to lower average wages and lower pensions.
In New Zealand, similar IR reforms led to a drop in real wage growth from 5% to 2.8%.
Morrie Mifsud of the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association says removing the power of the AIRC to set the minimum wage will be detrimental to pensioners as well as low-paid workers.
‘This will mean pensioners will have even more difficulty paying skyrocketing bills for essentials such as food, housing, transport and health services. How are people going to save up enough superannuation (on lower wages) to afford a decent retirement?
‘The proposed industrial relations changes are unjust, regressive and will guarantee greater inequality and poverty for years to come.’
Other welfare stings in the IR laws
The virtual abolition of unfair dismissal laws, combined with the federal government’s ‘welfare to work’ changes, make a mockery of John Howard’s claim that workers have the upper hand in the labour market and can easily move between jobs, say welfare sector representatives.
‘If a person leaves their job because the demands of the employer are unreasonable, and they go to Centrelink, an eight-week non-payment period will apply,’ said Michael Raper, President of the National Welfare Rights Network (NWRN).
Similar penalties will apply to unemployed jobseekers if they refuse a job. An unemployed person must accept any job under the IR reforms, no matter how unfair the terms and conditions.
Under the new government laws, if a person refuses to accept a job on the grounds that they disagree with the contents of an AWA, they will also face an eight-week suspension of their Centrelink payment.
John Howard’s recent advice to unemployed people and workers dissatisfied with their employment conditions has been branded as ‘misleading and dangerous’ by the National Welfare Rights Network. The Prime Minister said that a person who was unhappy with their employment conditions should quit and get another job.
Michael Raper said: ‘This could be very dangerous advice for many Australians, because if they follow it, they could end up being penalised by Centrelink and lose payment for eight weeks.’
Janet Seeley – CNS, Campbelltown Hospital
Christine Williams – RN, Camden Hospital