Rogue employers cling to WorkChoices

Rogue employers continue to take advantage of the lingering WorkChoices environment.

Australians voted decisively against WorkChoices at the last election. But that hasn’t stopped some large corporations taking advantage of the gap between the old laws being revoked and the new laws coming into effect, to lock in place the power over their employees that they were given by the Howard Government.

Among the high profile employers refusing to respect the community’s rejection of these laws are:

  • Telstra, which currently refuses to negotiate with the unions that represent more then 10,000 workers;
  • Rio Tinto, one of the world’s biggest mining companies, refuses to negotiate with the CFMEU, representing its workers at the Pilbara Iron Company;
  • Cochlear, the bionic ear manufacturer and exporter, refuses to negotiate an agreement with the AMWU, despite workers voting twice to reject the company’s non-union offer.
  • Market research company Roy Morgan sacked almost 60 staff by email without notice or any redundancy pay in a WorkChoices-style agreement.

No social responsibility at Telstra
Communications giant Telstra, with its ruthless American management, has been the most militant of the large employers.

Leaked documents show that Telstra has a plan to effectively cut its wages bill by almost 15% over four years. For the average technician, this would amount to a cut in real wages over time of $7,300 a year.

The documents suggest that Telstra management is planning to reduce its wages bill even further by slashing call centre jobs and outsourcing work to companies that pay staff 50% less.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard chastised Telstra for failing to engage in ‘cooperative workplace relations’ – something she says Australians voted for at the last election.

‘I don’t think it’s in Telstra’s interests to be seen as the company that is still trying to implement WorkChoices,’ she said.

A Galaxy poll commissioned last month by the ACTU shows how strongly out of step big business is with community sentiment about workers’ rights.

The poll found almost three-quarters of voters (73%) believe there should be no delay in improving workers’ protection from unfair dismissal and nearly seven in ten voters (69%) oppose a delay in restoring workers’ rights to bargain collectively.

Liberals still smitten by individual contracts
Liberal Party deputy leader Julie Bishop has indicated recently in several speeches that the Liberals remain wedded to the core principals of WorkChoices.

She says the Liberals would revert to the same unfair dismissal provisions in WorkChoices that allowed small businesses to get rid of workers unfairly and they would also retain the draconian Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Importantly, Bishop confirmed ongoing support for individual employment contracts, a key element of Howard Government’s WorkChoices system.

‘A form of individual statutory agreement . . . will be part of our platform at the next election,’ she told the Australian Mines and Metals Association.