Labor will abolish AWAs and enshrine collective bargaining rights

Every day we see evidence of workers being abused by employers through AWAs and the first report from the government`s own watchdog reveals that every single AWA so far has scrapped at least one award condition. Enough is enough, says Labor leader Kim Beazley. AWAs have to go.

Beazley announced Labor’s new policy at the NSW State Labor conference.

‘I believe AWAs are the poison tip of John Howard’s industrial relations arrow,’ he said.

‘I will not have Australian mums and dads ripped off by contracts that are shoved in their face by employers who’ve got no interest in any genuine bargaining process and hold all the cards.’

Beazley made another commitment: to introduce a legally enshrined right to collectively bargain.

‘John Howard knows that when they bargain collectively, working Australians would never accept having their pay slashed and conditions stripped bare. He knows the only way he can achieve this is to make workers deal with the employer on an individual basis.’
Beazley hit back at a frenzied reaction by business groups to his stand.

‘I cannot see how a set of changes whose immediate effect is large cuts in basic pay and conditions for some employees can advance the interests of our nation,’ he wrote to the Business Council of Australia.

‘Australia will not prosper by engaging in a race to the bottom against low-wage countries like India and China.’
Common law contracts will still be legal

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet says despite the hysterical reaction by business and the government to Beazley’s announcement community sentiment is supportive.

‘Our polling in 24 key marginal seats shows strong community opposition to individual contracts. The Howard government may be in line with the opinions of big business on its IR laws but it is greatly out of step with community opinion,’ he said.

Beazley has clearly stated that common law contracts offering higher wages and conditions than awards or enterprise agreements will still be allowed.

‘We will work sensibly with all interested parties to ensure that transitional arrangements are easily put in place. This creates no uncertainty whatsoever,’ he told The Daily Telegraph.

Beazley’s plan to scrap Howard’s IR laws

Labor’s position on workplace rights include:

  • Right to collective bargaining: Employers will be required to bargain with unions if that is the will of a majority in the workplace
  • Australian Workplace Agreements: AWAs will be scrapped in favour of enterprise bargaining agreements and awards
  • Unfair dismissals: Protections to workers at firms with less than 100 employees will be restored
  • Awards and minimum conditions: Penalty rates for working on public holidays will be restored and the number of minimum conditions expanded
  • Fair pay commission: Fair pay commission will be abolished and the role of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission restored with the emphasis on decisions returning to fairness
  • Foreign workers: Employers who want migrant workers will be forced to prove they have not fired local workers from similar jobs in the past 12 months.

OECD contradicts federal government’s IR rationale

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, widely acknowledged as a model of economic rectitude, has released an Employment Outlook report that rejects the business lobby and federal government assertion that labour market deregulation creates jobs.

It says there is no clear evidence that minimum wages, trade unions and unfair dismissal laws cause unemployment. In fact, it says coordinated wage bargaining by unions actually ‘significantly reduces unemployment’.