Many low paid workers, including young people and workers reliant in the safety net of awards, face cuts to their pay and conditions under the Australian Industrial Relations Commission’s proposed new modern awards released today.
The first batch of modernised awards released today fail the test of ensuring that no workers will be worse off and must be improved, say unions.
Some workers will find their rates of pay have been cut under new job classifications in the streamlined award system and workers in small businesses of less than 15 employees will have no entitlement to redundancy pay.
ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said it is unacceptable that workers stand to lose their entitlement to redundancy as we head into a potentially major economic downturn.
“In uncertain economic times, it is more important than ever that workers are protected by a strong safety net and a guaranteed entitlement to redundancy pay.
“WorkChoices took away workers’ right to redundancy pay and these proposed new modern awards only partially give back that right.
“In the context of an economic slowdown that is likely to result in job losses, workers who lose their job could be out of work for many months while they look for other employment and it is essential they have redundancy pay to help during that period.”
“Unions have previously welcomed the award modernisation process because a modern award system is a major component of the employment safety net and a key part of sweeping away the legacy of WorkChoices.
“However, the bottom line must be that workers are not worse off. This was the clear message sent by the Australian public at the last election when they so forcefully rejected WorkChoices.
“It is wrong that under the new classifications in the awards, there will be new employees taken on after 2010 who will potentially be paid less than current employees.
“This will create two classes of workers, with young people entering the job market for the first time and workers who change jobs standing to get less pay and conditions than fellow workers.”
Mr Lawrence said there are some positive elements, including requirements for employers to consult about major workplace changes, including over retrenchments.
While the establishment of a standard loading for casual workers of 25% is a significant improvement in many sectors, there are tens of thousands of workers such as those in the textile clothing and footwear industry who will face a drop in pay.
Also disappointing in the proposed new awards is the absence of an independent mechanism to resolve disputes through arbitration.
“These awards are not due to take effect until January 2010. The Commission should use this period to consult further and make improvements,” said Mr Lawrence.