The ACTU has labelled a report released today by the Australian Mines & Metals Association backing the Howard Government’s AWA individual contracts as inaccurate and self serving.
Speaking from Perth in Western Australia ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said:
“No one will be surprised that big business is backing John Howard’s new IR laws. These laws are a huge free kick for big business at the expense of working families.
“The truth is that in the mining industry the Federal Government’s AWAs have been used to deny workers of their right to union representation and their right to bargain collectively with their employer, even where that is what a majority of workers in the workplace want. 
“These are fundamental and internationally recognised human rights, but they are not being respected by the Liberal’s IR laws, or the large mining companies who support those laws.”  
Mr Combet also rejected the AMMA’s claims that getting rid of AWAs would hurt productivity or lead to lower wages for workers.
“The AMMA claims that average wages for workers on individual contracts in the mining industry ($1729.70 a week) are higher than those of award employees. But what their report conveniently omits is the fact that mining workers covered by collective agreements ($1837.20 a week) earn an average $107.50 a week more than those on AWAs.
“In fact, the very reason the AMMA says it wants to retain AWAs is that they allow employers to unilaterally cut conditions below the standards set in awards or collective agreements. 
“The report also fails to mention that over the past decade productivity growth in the coal industry, where most workers on collective agreements, has been more than 8 times the rate of productivity growth in those areas of the mining industry where AWAs are used. 
“This report is self serving and inaccurate.
“The big miners know that under the Liberal Government’s IR laws all the power is with large employers. That is why they are so determined to stop a fairer set of workplace laws being introduced. 
“Under these IR laws large businesses have the power to refuse to collectively bargain with workers even where that is what a majority of workers in a workplace want, and can refuse employment to any worker who won’t sign an AWA in terms dictated solely by the employer.
“The Government’s own survey of AWA individual contracts under its IR laws shows that 51% cut Overtime Loadings; 63% cut Penalty Rates; 64% cut Annual leave loading; 46% cut Public Holidays payment; 52% cut Shift Work Loadings; and 40% cut Rest Breaks. 
“Everybody knows we are experiencing a resources boom, but what about when the boom ends? What we will see then is working families who have lost their rights and workplace conditions under the Liberal’s IR laws put under enormous pressure,” said Mr Combet.