IR Shorts

Cowra employer’s open slather sackings were legal

Employers have been given the green light to sack workers and rehire them on lesser pay and conditions after the federal government’s workplace watchdog, the Office of Workplace Services, cleared the Cowra Abattoir of wrongdoing.

The abattoir was at the centre of a storm not long after the new federal IR laws were introduced when it threatened to sack 29 workers and rehire 20 of them on new contracts, which the ACTU said involved pay cuts of up to $180 a week plus loss of bonuses.

At the time, Workplace Minister Kevin Andrews would not confirm that the sackings were legal, but said the investigation was proof that ‘the law works, that there are protections’ for workers.

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said the report confirmed what the ACTU and unions have being saying about the federal government’s laws all along.

‘They water down previous protections for workers against being sacked and replaced by cheaper labour,’ he said.

Howard’s man confirms, AWAs wipe out penalty rates and award conditions
The head of the Howard Government’s Office of the Employment Advocate, Peter McIlwain, has admitted to a Senate Estimates Committee that penalty rates, shift allowances and annual leave loading for employees have been abolished in a majority of new AWAs registered under the Howard Government’s new IR laws.

McIlwain is responsible for scrutinising the content of workplace agreements. He told the committee:

  • 100% of all agreements exclude at least one protected award condition
  • 64% remove leave loading
  • 63% remove penalty rates
  • 52% remove shiftwork loading
  • 16% excluded all award conditions.

Beaconsfield miners’ appeal for union OHS training falls on deaf ears
In a separate admission to the senate estimates committee, the Employment Advocate Peter McIlwain confirmed that any leave to attend union-provided training – including OHS training – is prohibited in workplace agreements under the Government’s new industrial laws.

‘Leave to attend training, provided by a trade union, however described, is prohibited as per the regulations,’ Mr McIlwain told the committee.

This startling admission followed an appeal by 38 Beaconsfield miners, including members of the rescue team, that called on the federal government to remove the ban on union health and safety training.

‘We believe every worker has the right to return home from work safely every day. And we believe the right to occupational health and safety is a direct result of union involvement in the workplace,’ they said in a joint declaration.

‘Unions and union training improve workplace safety. We are concerned that the federal government’s new industrial laws attack the role of unions in our workplace and other workplaces around Australia and, in so doing, will make workplaces less safe.’

2 cents an hour for losing penalty rates and conditions
Workers at retail giant Spotlight have been given a pay increase of just two cents an hour in exchange for losing entitlements like penalty rates, rest breaks and overtime.

The Australian-owned chain of fabric and homewares stores employs 6,000 workers and rakes in over $600 million a year. But new staff will lose up to $90 a week under the terms of Spotlight’s new individual contracts.

Spotlight’s owners’ Morry Fraid and Ruben Fried told Melbourne’s Herald Sun: ‘Our AWA obviously meets all of the WorkChoices requirements. We are not the ones writing the laws.’

The employers’ position was quickly backed up by John Howard, who brazenly claimed stripping people of conditions in one store lead to the creation of jobs in another, earning a stiff riposte from the Sydney Morning Herald.

‘How did [Spotlight’s] proprietors manage to create a nationwide network of 100 stores, from their original shop in Melbourne in 1973, if the old system was so bad?’ it said in an editorial.