Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Howard's IR Laws: "culture of fear" force workers from unions and slash casual pay

April 04, 200 - Unions say casual employees stand to lose pay over the Easter weekend because of the Federal Government's WorkChoices laws. The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) says 2,000 young workers a month are being switched to individual contracts which reduce or abolish penalty rates on public holidays.

Meanwhile, WA leads the way in workers abandoning unions, with over 10 per cent bailing in the last 12 months...
ACTU president Sharan Burrow says young workers will be the worst hit over Easter. "There's no way that young people can continue to make ends meet if their take-home pay is slashed by up to $100 a week," she said.

"This is a generation of young people, those who do casual work, who will grow up never knowing that there's a difference between a Monday and a Sunday and now an Easter Sunday, that of course would attract a double entitlement to wages because of the unsocial hours."

However, Federal Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey says young workers are better off under WorkChoices.

Meanwhile, Australian union membership is at record low. Latest figures reveal that 125,000 workers have left the union movement in 12 months. The biggest drop in the 12 months to August last year - 10.5 per cent - came in Western Australia. Nationally, trade union membership now represents only 15.5 per cent of private-sector workers, down from 16.7 per cent in mid-2005. The number of male union members has dropped below one million for the first time, with total membership now 1.8 million.

Ms Burrow said she was not surprised by the figures and believed Work Choices had made people scared to be in unions.

"The figures are not surprising considering that the IR laws are designed to take away people's rights at work and make it harder to bargain collectively," she said. "There's a culture of fear when employers have the power to say 'sign the contract or you don't get the job'."

ACTU secretary Greg Combet said people were opposed to the Government's IR laws and that Labor should articulate an alternative policy. "It's a matter for the Labor Party, of course, what they set out at their national conference, but myself and my union colleagues are hopeful of seeing a bit more detail at the national conference about what Labor's alternative plans would be," Mr Combet said. "It's very difficult for people to make the choice to be a member of the union under Work Choices."

Mr Combet says the results are very disappointing for unions but not surprising. He says one of the aims of the Federal Government's industrial laws is to make it very difficult for people to be a part of the union movement.

"It's very difficult for people to make the choice to be a member of the union under WorkChoices," he said. "We're already aware of people being victimised for choosing to be a union member and putting their hand up to oppose some of things that happen in workplaces. It's also very hard for people to have effective union representation."

A recent Newspoll published in The Australian shows that most voters do not believe Work Choices will be good for them, the economy or job creation.

The poll shows voters overwhelmingly reject the Howard Government’s push to put workers on to AWA individual contracts and want unfair dismissal and collective bargaining rights for workers restored. With the Prime Minister John Howard ruling out any possibility of the Federal Liberal Party making changes to its year old IR laws, the national poll shows:

* 69% believe AWA individual contracts that are being pushed by the IR laws give too much power to employers.
* 71% believe that collective bargaining gives power back to workers and that this is a good thing.
* 59% reject the Government’s argument that unfair dismissal laws cost jobs and believe that all workers, including those in small businesses, should be protected from unfair dismissal.

Research also shows that work conditions are being cut by the AWA individual contracts - 1,000 Australian workers a day are being pushed onto AWAs which the Federal Government's own survey shows that every new AWA is cutting at least one so called ‘protected award condition' and that 51% cut Overtime Loadings; 63% cut Penalty Rates; 46% cut Public Holidays pay; 52% cut Shift Work Loadings; and 40% cut Rest Breaks.

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)
Union memberships hit hard - News Ltd
WorkChoices biting over Easter: ACTU - ABC
WorkChoices choking union participation: ACTU - ABC
New poll shows voters reject AWAs and want collective bargaining - ACTU
Federal Govt's new IR laws are hurting working families - ACTU

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