More nasty lies

The Howard government has resorted to gutter tactics to discredit the brave workers who told their story in the ACTU`s TV ads

The ACTU has accused the federal government’s Office of Workplace Services (OWS) of a ‘politically motivated’ investigation of workers who appeared in the union peak body’s television advertisements.

The ACTU has received copies of documents that purport to be an ‘OWS summary of findings’, which was leaked to the Daily Telegraph and used as the basis of a malicious story that questioned the veracity of what these workers said.

The documents reveal a flimsy and flawed investigation and a misrepresentation of the specific cases – based on untested claims by employers, which the ACTU believes may have potentially defamed some of the people appearing in the ads.

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet says the documents reveal the OWS to be a biased and unprofessional organisation.

‘The OWS appears to have relied on untested claims by employers as the basis for its so-called independent findings,’ he said.

‘At least four of those people mentioned in the report have not been spoken to or interviewed by the OWS about the allegations made against them. This is a denial of justice that is totally unacceptable.

‘The people featured in the ads simply and briefly state in their own words the way in which they were treated,’ he said.

Labor spokesperson on Workplace Relations Stephen Smith added his voice to the condemnation of the role of the OWS.

‘What we have found out about this so-called umpire, the Office of Workplace Services, is that they were acting completely in a partisan way,’ he said.

The federal government and business groups including the Australian Chamber of Commerce defended the OWS and its investigations.

John Howard told the Australian Financial Review that the OWS investigation had demonstrated the ACTU had, at best, ‘exaggerated the situation, and in some cases, has omitted the full story.’

What is the Office of Workplace Services?

  • Set up by the Howard government at the same time it passed its federal IR laws in March to ‘police’ the laws (‘Pressured to join a union?’ it asks on its website.)
  • The OWS is not an independent body. Its inspectors are appointed by the Minister for Workplace Relations Kevin Andrews who, by regulation, can instruct the inspectors and specify how their powers can be used
  • Director Nicholas Wilson was previously the Manager of Employee Relations/Industrial Relations with what is now Business South Australia
  • The OWS first came to prominence when called in by the federal government to investigate the sackings at a Cowra abattoir – and found that the sackings were perfectly legal.

‘We have never argued that these workers who appear in these advertisements were illegally sacked, that’s the whole darn point. They were legally sacked and they shouldn’t have been legally sacked.’
Kim Beazley

‘If a report of the OWS investigation has been leaked to the media then this is simple evidence of how desperate the Government is getting in this fight over the IR laws.’
Greg Combet