ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said:
"A leaked Office of Workplace Services report has now confirmed what the ACTU and unions have being saying about these laws all along - they leave Australian workers exposed to the threat of being legally sacked and offered their jobs back on lower wages.
The Government and Kevin Andrews cannot hide from this issue any longer. They must now immediately repeal these 'Cowra Clauses' from the new industrial relations laws.
These Clauses include:
* Clause 792 (4) of the new industrial relations laws which specifically waters down previous protections for workers against being terminated and replaced by cheaper labour; and
* Clause 643 (8) of the new industrial relations laws which allows large businesses to sack workers for 'operational reasons' without being subject to unfair dismissal laws.
"Previously workers had been protected by laws which prohibited sackings if one of the reasons for the dismissal was that the worker was entitled to certain pay and conditions under an industrial award or agreement. This law stopped employers from being able to sack their employees and replace them with workers on lower terms and conditions.
"But Section 792 (4) of the Government's new laws specifically waters down these protections and only provides protection to workers where it can be proven that the 'sole' or 'dominant' reason for a dismissal was that the worker was entitled to certain pay and conditions under an industrial award or agreement. This change has significantly watered down previous protections for workers against being sacked and replaced by cheaper labour.
"In addition, Clause 643 (8) of the new industrial relations laws protects big businesses from any unfair dismissal claim where a worker is sacked for so called 'operational reasons'. No such exemption existed under the previous industrial relations laws.
"Until the Government repeals these clauses then we are going to see more cases like the one we have seen at Cowra. If the Government wants to protect people from being sacked and rehired on lower pay and conditions then it should change its workplace laws and repeal the 'Cowra Clauses' that have allowed this to happen," said Mr. Combet.
Watchdog backs bosses in abattoir test case
- The Age newspaper, 31 May 2006