Australian employees would lose the guaranteed right to many basic workplace conditions if the Federal Government goes ahead with its plans to cut conditions from Australian workplace Awards.

Commenting on reports in today’s Australian Financial Review that the Federal Government plans to use its Senate majority to abolish conditions such as work related allowances, bonus payments, higher pay rates for more difficult or skilled work, jury service leave, public holidays, notice of termination, superannuation and possibly even parental leave from all Federal Awards, ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said:

“I think the community should be very concerned about the Federal Government’s plans for Australian workplaces.

“For over 100 years, Australia has had a system that has kept our workplaces decent, safe and fair. It has made sure that working families are not left behind. This is the system the Government now wants to get rid of.

“What I fear is that the path the Government wants to take Australia down is an American style workplace system where the minimum wages are just $5.15 an hour.

“Though many people may not realise it, all Australian workers currently enjoy the protection of our strong Award system. Most of the pay and conditions many of us take for granted are guaranteed by the Awards the Federal Government is saying i6t wants to tear up.

“Almost 2 million Australian workers rely directly on Awards for all their pay and conditions. Millions of other workers employed on enterprise agreements, contracts or other informal arrangements also have most of their pay and conditions underpinned by an Award.

“What the Government’s plans mean is that many conditions currently guaranteed to all workers through their Award will have to be negotiated in every workplace or by individual employees.

“For many employees, especially those without a strong union to assists them, this means these conditions will be gone forever.”

Reports in today’s papers also suggest that from July 1 2005 the Government intends to remove the power of the independent Australian Industrial Relations Commission to set fair minimum wages and reduce its role in settling disputes.

“Decent minimum wages are a vital part of the Australian system of fair workplaces, decent living standards and opportunities for working families.

“If the Federal Government goes ahead with its plans to strip the independent Industrial Commission of its powers to set minimum wages what we will end up with is a real reduction in the wages and living standards of low-paid Australian families.”