Practical measures to fix the skills shortage and ways for working people to respond to the Government’s push towards a US-style industrial relations system will be the focus of an ACTU Executive meeting starting today (Tuesday).

Speaking ahead of the two-day Executive meeting ACTU President Sharan Burrow

“The Federal Government is planning to use its control of the Senate
post-July 1 to push ahead with a radical agenda that would scrap Australia’s 100
year old system of independent arbitration and workplace relations.

It is very worrying there are newspaper reports that Cabinet this week has
again been discussing changes to the way minimum wages are set that include
introducing a US-style system where the government has a major say over a wage
rise for low paid workers.

Political interference in setting minimum wages would be disaster for up to
two million Australians reliant on minimum wages. In the United States where
politicians have the final say the minimum wage is only $5.15 an hour and has
not been increased for eight years. (More info:

New Federal Government laws to prevent people at work from gaining help and
information from unions and to force people onto individual contracts will also
be under discussion.

It is absurd that in this day and age we have a Government that is
threatening to erode the fundamental right of working people to gain help from a
union and to bargain collectively.

Skills shortage

The ACTU Executive will also discuss plans to fix Australia’s skills and
labour shortage.

Unions are particularly concerned with Government moves to collapse the
existing ladder of skill-based award wage levels down into one single minimum

Under the Government’s plan a qualified tradesperson would face pay cuts of
more than $93 a week. Their pay could go down from the current legal minimum ‘trades rate’ of $14.77 an hour to the minimum wage of just $12.30 an hour.

Cutting the wages of tradespeople is a ridiculous proposal that would reduce
incentives for people to take up a career in the trades.

The ACTU is also concerned that Government proposals to reduce the number of
matters allowed in awards, including caps on the use of casual workers, could
also worsen the skills problem.

ACTU research shows that casual workers receive considerably less training
than permanent employees and that high numbers of casual workers pose a major
barrier to a better-trained and more highly skilled workforce.