Women the biggest losers under WorkChoices

20,000 workers are robbed of award protection every month. Family life is increasingly dominated by work at the expense of our children and elderly. These trends, especially for women, are set to worsen due to the federal government`s IR laws.

One year on, women are the biggest losers, according to a report on the impact of the federal government’s IR changes.

Research by Professor David Peetz from Queensland’s Griffith Business School analyses the first 10 months of WorkChoices. It finds that almost 20,000 workers a month are losing award coverage with the rate of pay for women taking the biggest hit.

Key findings of the research are:

  • a majority of award workers suffered a real wage cut averaging almost 1% since the introduction of the laws;
  • women’s pay has dropped significantly under the new laws with real average earnings for women in the private sector falling by 2%;
  • almost 20,000 workers every month are losing award coverage and being shifted onto AWAs or other non-union agreements that remove overtime and penalty rates;
  • Labour productivity fell by 1.6% nationally between the March and September quarters of 2006;
  • the share of national income going to profits is at an all time high.

Professor Peetz says a comprehensive analysis of the impacts of the federal IR laws is being impeded by the withholding of official information by the Howard government and its agencies.

‘Nonetheless, these are the patterns we would expect to see from a transfer of power from employees to corporations,’ he said.

His research is backed up by an ACTU analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics data in the 12 months since the introduction of WorkChoices. The analysis shows that the gap between full-time wages for women and men has blown out to $100 a week.

Full-time women workers now earn on average 10% less than their male colleagues. This has taken Australia back to the same pay gap in percentage terms that existed in 1978.

The ACTU says, with almost one in four women (23%) reliant on awards (compared to only 15% of men), the erosion of award conditions such as penalty rates, leave loading and public holiday payments is having a serious impact on women’s take-home pay.

This is exacerbated by the federal government’s refusal to include in the new minimum legal standards, rights to family-flexible working conditions that were won in the ACTU Work and Family Test Case.

A woeful score card

The Griffith Business School report found that since the introduction of the federal government’s IR changes there has been:

  • a decline in average real wages despite the economic boom;
  • a real and relative drop in the earnings of women;
  • a fall in labour productivity;
  • a rise in profits to record levels.