Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mining industry is bluffing on AWAs

14 May, 2007 - Mining industry is bluffing on AWAs: Kevin Rudd should not to be bluffed by the WA mining industry...

The Australian Mining and Minerals Association's Chris Platt says that the removal of AWAs is "a means of handing power back to union bosses and facilitating an increase in union membership."

Mr Platt writes, in an opinion piece for the Herald Sun, that Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) make the taking of industrial action during their term illegal: "Simply put, employers need to guarantee that they will not be subject to industrial action in order to attract and retain business and enhance our export reputation. AWAs also restrict the involvement of uninvited unions. A union cannot involve itself in the negotiation of an AWA unless an employee appoints it as his or her bargaining agent."

"he question remains, will the mining industry be able to continue to maximise the benefits of the boom period or will the industry's future be put in the hands of trade unions whose own management performance is abysmal?" said Mr Platt.

However Greens Senator Rachael Siewert says: "Quite frankly, what the WA mining lobby has been saying about AWAs underpinning the mining boom is nonsense. The boom was up and running well before Work Choices was in place," said Senator Siewert. "The resources sector is facing a serious shortage of skilled workers, and are having to offer huge wages to pull people out of other sectors of the economy. It is ludicrous to think that an award safety net and collective bargaining could undermine the boom as the mining sector claim."

"The mining industry are simply throwing their weight around. They have the WA state government under their thumb and think they can push around the whole nation. Mr Rudd needs to think about the long-term future of Australia and its workers, not pander to any one section of the economy for short-term gain.

The Australian Mines and Metals Association said in March that the Howard Government's spread of individual workplace deals (AWAs), had not led to a "race to the bottom" as Labor and unions had claimed. The AMMA said Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed miners' average wages had risen to $1684 a week over the 12 months since Work Choices - up $642 a week. Mr Platt said about 30 per cent of miners were signed up to AWAs.

In Western Australia, he said, the proportion was 80 per cent. In the same period, time lost due to industrial disputes had fallen dramatically. Mr Platt said Labor's pledge to abolish AWAs was "economic vandalism" and would put at risk Australia's reputation as a stable business environment.

ACTU secretary Greg Combet rejected this, saying collective wage agreements could offer the same "human resources outcomes" and the same rewards in productivity and efficiency. He said the AMMA had conveniently omitted that workers covered by collective agreements earned an average $107.50 a week more than those on AWAs.

"Everybody knows we are experiencing a resources boom, but what about when the boom ends?" Mr Combet said.

Australian Mines and Metals Association
The Australian
Herald and Weekly Times

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