The Secretary of the ACTU, Greg Combet today called on the Prime Minister to ensure young workers are protected against exploitation by employers using individual contracts (AWAs).

Mr. Combet said that the case of Deanna Renella, the 15-year-old worker from Bakers Delight in Adelaide showed that the Governments individual contract agency, the Office of Employment Advocate (OEA), was not competent or vigilant in protecting young people against exploitative AWAs.

It was found in South Australias Industrial Relations Court that Deanna was being paid 25% less than her award pay entitlement under her AWA, and that the AWA abolished her annual and sick leave. It was also found in the South Australian decision that 50 other AWAs had been approved by the OEA in the same terms as Deannas for Bakers Delight in Adelaide alone. These rip-off AWAs are still in operation.

The question that the Prime Minister must answer is this: how many contracts presently exist, like these 50 AWAs, that undercut award conditions, trade off holidays and sick leave and undermine basic rights at work? Mr. Combet asked.

Mr. Combet said that the Prime Minister should direct the OEA to immediately recall the Bakers Delight contracts for review.

These contracts clearly need overturning, Mr. Combet said.

Mr. Combet also called on the Government to immediately rethink the use of individual contracts for young workers under the age of 20.

It is clear that AWAs are being widely used to exploit young workers. The ACTU believes that young workers should be protected by the award, and the use of AWAs is clearly inappropriate for this age group, Mr Combet said.

Video hire used to top-up individual contract

A Government agency website shows a separate example of an AWA for the retail trade, presumably for a video hire store, that failed to meet the ‘no disadvantage test’ which compares it to the relevant award. The Office of Employment Advocate subsequently approved the AWA when the employer undertook to provide ‘an additional benefit’ in the form of ‘one free video rental per week to the value of $6’. It is not good enough for peoples wages and conditions to be made up by things such as videos, said Mr Combet.

For a copy of the AWA click here