Howard’s ‘worker’ is the bosses’ sister

A worker who appeared on the front page of the Sydney Daily Telegraph supporting the Federal Government’s IR changes has turned out to be the bosses’ sister.

The UnionsNSW Workers Online web site has revealed that Betty Wehbe, whose photo appeared in the paper, works as a waitress at Ray & Lou’s Café in Parramatta. Ray and Lou’s Café is owned by her brothers, Louis, Ray and Joe Wehbe.

The Telegraph said Betty Wehbe approved of the changes‚ and was keen to trade in her holidays for extra money.
It made no mention of her relationship to her employers.

A farcical choice

The federal government will spend a reported $100 million of taxpayers` money on a hard sell of its new workplace relations system.

But glossy ads don’t hide the fact that WorkChoices gives employers the power to unilaterally determine people’s pay and employment conditions.

It’s been a long time coming but the federal government has finally revealed some detail its new IR agenda called WorkChoices, backed up by an expensive TV campaign peopled with happy workers and caring employers.

WorkChoices was unveiled in a special briefing for business groups in Canberra. Excluded from the meeting were unions, church groups and social services organisations.

Beneath the big happy family imagery the substance of the policy is even nastier than unions had predicted.

Among the changes that open the way for employers to cut the working conditions of Australians are:

  • unfair dismissal protection will disappear for four million Australians working in businesses with less than 100 employees.
  • individual contracts will be able to cut take-home pay and working conditions.
  • minimum wages will no longer be set by the independent umpire, clearing the way for them to be lower in the future.
  • the award safety net is drastically undermined.
  • it will be even harder for workers to bargain collectively or be represented by a union.
  • the Australian Industrial Relations Commission is to be gutted.

Hard-won conditions that can no longer be included in awards include skills-based career paths, apprenticeships, picnic days and union training leave.

Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews will have the power to halt protected industrial action in essential services if it ‘threatens life, personal safety, health or the welfare of the population or is likely to cause significant damage to the economy’.

This will have significant consequences for NSW nurses, virtually curtailing the right to strike.

Far from the ‘simpler, fairer’ system described in the government’s TV ads, the government has crafted a complex, highly-detailed system specifically designed to cut the take home pay of Australian workers.

Apart from a small number of employer groups, the government’s package has been roundly condemned for its extremism and bias towards employers.

Among the voices with concerns are church leaders such as Catholic Cardinal George Pell and Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen, economists Ross Gittens and Professor Mark Wooden, labour market academics, all State Premiers, Family First Senator Steven Fielding, the Democrats, the ALP, the Greens and the RSL.

Even high-profile members of the Liberal and National parties challenge some aspects of the changes, in particular the reduced role of state IR systems.

Unions have condemned the government for hiding its true intentions from the Australian people.

‘To call the package ‘WorkChoices’ is the greatest farce perpetrated in politics for some time. The only choice that working people will have in the government’s new world will be a choice between inferior conditions or the door,’ said ACTU Secretary Greg Combet.