NSW government moves to protect young workers

The Iemma government has moved to shift tens of thousands of young workers back into the state IR system to protect them from the federal government’s IR laws.

Under the proposed new laws, employers would have to provide all NSW workers aged under 18 with at least the minimum terms and conditions as set out in the relevant NSW awards.

The federal laws do not guarantee overtime and penalty rates, which are protected under state awards.

NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca told the Australian Financial Review that employers who breached the new laws would be investigated by state workplace inspectors and prosecuted if they were ‘recalcitrant’.

IR laws pushing down pay, says ABS data

A new ACTU analysis of ABS data shows the IR changes are starting to bite into workers’ take home pay with the latest data showing that in the last twelve months average earnings failed to keep pace with inflation for the first time in five years.

Average earnings in the year to June 2006 dropped in real terms by 1%, a fall in average weekly earnings of $11 a week, as a result of downward pressure on wages and rising living costs.

‘This is the first big drop in average earnings since the introduction of the GST. If we discount the effect of the GST on living costs, this is the first time that average earnings have declined in real terms for ten years,’ said ACTU Secretary Greg Combet.

‘The historically low average earnings are caused by the federal government’s 18-month freeze on pay rises for award wage workers as part of its new IR laws, and a fall in overtime, penalty rates and bonus payments to workers under the laws.’

Sacked workers try alternative remedies

The scrapping of unfair dismissal laws has seen a huge jump in the number of workers seeking compensation through unlawful termination laws.

Unlawful termination laws are much narrower than unfair dismissal and cover dismissal for discrimination on the basis of gender, pregnancy, race, disability, age, religious belief or union membership.

They had previously been little used as claims can cost $30,000 and take more than a year to resolve.

From January 1997 till June 2005, there were 63,439 sacking claims heard by the AIRC and only 163 were for unlawful termination, the rest were for harsh and unjust sackings.

But since the introduction of the federal government’s IR laws in March, more than half the claims have been for unlawful termination.

Fear grips the workplace

A survey by recruitment firm Talent2 shows that a third of Australians are more worried about job security than they were before the Howard government introduced its federal IR changes.

Blue collar workers, in particular, were gripped by fear with an incredible 41% saying they were scared of getting the sack because of the changes.

The survey found that almost 20% of workers are less likely to leave their current job for a new one because of the new laws.

In marked contrast, John Howard told the South Australian Liberal Party annual general meeting, ‘Australians have job security the like of which they haven’t had before’.