IR SHORTS

Under investment in training could cost 500,000 jobs and $100 billion

New research released by the ACTU shows that unless there is substantial new investment in vocational education and training, the Australian economy could lose up to 550,000 jobs by 2025 and national GDP could decline by more than $100 billion.

The ACTU says there is an emerging consensus that Australia is not investing sufficiently in Vocational Education and Training (VET), and that Government policy needs to take a new direction.

‘A decade of neglect of investing in VET has seen the emergence of major skilled labour shortages. At the same time more than a million Australians are unemployed or under-employed and many thousands more can’t take a job because of inadequate social infrastructure such as childcare,’ claims the report.

The full report can be downloaded at http://www.actu.asn.au/.

More rip-offs, thanks to WorkChoices

The Howard government is trying everything to make their IR laws look palatable but the examples of outrageous employers taking advantage of their bloated power in the workplace continue to roll in.

On Anzac Day, of all days, the Mean Fiddler restaurant in Rouse Hill was caught out paying its permanent staff only $13 or $14 an hour when they would have received more than twice this amount, $33 an hour, under the NSW Hospitality award. Incredibly, the restaurant slugged its customers a 10% surcharge to cover extra staff costs for a public holiday!

On the same day in Meadow Heights, a western suburb of Melbourne, employees of the Morgan’s IGA supermarket worked from 12 noon to 9pm for a base rate of $15.02 an hour. This is $24.52 an hour less than they would have earned on a public holiday under their old collective agreement.

Under the Morgan’s IGA contract, workers have been forced to sign away their penalty rates without any compensation.

Names change but not much else

John Howard has renamed the two government agencies that were charged with policing WorkChoices. The Office for the Employment Advocate becomes the Workplace Authority. The Office for the Workplace Services is now called the Workplace Ombudsman.

The Workplace Authority will be responsible for assessing new workplace agreements against Howard’s so-called ‘fairness test’ (see story p 18).

Legal experts believe this would require the hiring of thousands of staff to administer the test and ensure that conditions traded away were matched by adequate compensation.

‘Having to scrutinise each and every agreement is a huge job,’ Industrial Law Professor Andrew Stewart told The Australian. ‘It will add significantly to the cost and complexity and the timeliness of the agreement process.’

Since WorkChoices has been introduced, the Employment Advocate has approved 306,000 AWAs, 2,862 non-union collective agreements and 2,486 union collective agreements.

No announcements have been made about hiring new staff.

Labor’s new workplace umpire needs to be independent

Unions have sent a message to Labor that its proposed new workplace umpire needs to be truly independent and have real powers to protect the rights of Australian employees in the workplace.

Labor says its proposed new body – Fair Work Australia – which would replace the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, would act as a one-stop shop to:

  • implement Labor’s new unfair dismissal protections;
  • set minimum wages for the 1.2 million workers dependent on award wages;
  • assist employers and employees make collective bargaining agreements; and
  • provide practical advice to employers and employees via phone and the internet.

‘To ensure workers get a fairer go, Labor’s new super agency ‘Fair Work Australia’ should be a truly independent umpire which understands the pressures on working families and ensures workers’ rights are respected and fairly balanced with the needs of employers,’ said the ACTU Secretary Greg Combet.