John Howard has confirmed that his Government will push ahead with their plan to reduce coverage of the award safety net and would also consider changes to the fairness test if re-elected, according to a report in today’s Australian Financial Review.
This is confirmation that a re-elected Howard-Costello Government will go further on Work Choices and slash Australia’s unique award safety net after the election, putting more workers’ wages and conditions at risk says the ACTU.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:
“On industrial relations John Howard says one thing and does another.
“Last weekend he said that the process of Work Choices is ‘complete’ but now he says he wants to reduce the award safety net and might change the fairness test after the election.
“Peter Costello has previously stated he would like to make further cuts to workers’ protections from unfair dismissal and we know that the Howard Government has a plan to push an extra 1.5 million workers onto its lower-paid AWAs after the election.
“There is no doubt the Liberals will go further on IR and make it harder for workers after the election,” said Ms Burrow.
Business groups close to the Liberal Party have for a long time pushed for dramatic cuts to the award safety net that currently underpins the wages and conditions of more than half Australia’s workforce.
The representative of Australia’s biggest corporations, the Business Council of Australia, in its “Workplace Relations Action Plan for Future Prosperity” proposes getting rid of the entire award system and adopting a single, statutory minimum set of conditions covering only six allowable matters. 
This plan would abolish workers’ award rights to rest breaks, annual leave loadings, overtime and shift work loadings; penalty rates; redundancy pay, skill allowances, disability allowances, work expenses, incentive payments and bonuses, controls over the roster, and stand-down provisions.
Another well-known business group, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), in its submission to the recent Award Review Taskforce, proposes getting rid of the current system of award wages and having only a ‘single adult minimum wage’.
“This would cut the minimum award wage for a tradesperson by $150 a week.
“We know from Work Choices, about which only business was consulted, what John Howard and Peter Costello really believe when it comes to workers’ rights – they simply cannot be trusted on IR.
“These proposals for reducing award coverage and stripping away the award safety net could leave millions of workers worse off,” Ms Burrow said.