A new government study reported in a national newspaper today shows the Howard Government’s workplace watchdog is failing workers.

The study shows the much-publicised Workplace Ombudsman is slow, unresponsive and ineffective at dealing with complaints from workers about the new IR laws says the ACTU.

Out of 800 complaints from workers that were underpaid, dismissed or treated unfairly to a Queensland Government help line that were then referred to the Federal Government’s Workplace Ombudsman (formerly the Office of Workplace Services), only 4 responses have been received back by the Queensland Government.

A survey of the outstanding claims by workers by the Queensland Government found that more than one in three (33.5%) were dissatisfied with the service or outcome by the Howard Government’s Workplace Ombudsman.

The top three reasons the workers were unhappy with the response were:

  • The Howard Govt workplace watchdog indicated the worker had ‘no claim’ but did not provide reasons;
  • The watchdog accepted the employer’s details of events without giving the worker an opportunity to respond;
  • The watchdog did not provide any detail or keep claimants informed on the progress of the matter.
  • The survey also found that the Howard Government workplace watchdog was ineffective — in more than one in ten cases (11.5%), the individual worker was ‘directed, pressured, or otherwise encouraged’ to resolve the ‘matter themselves directly with their employer or by their own small claims or legal action’.

    Workers also said the watchdog was very slow, with the survey finding one in ten (10%) matters had been under investigation for six months or more without resolution and without legal action being commenced.

    ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

    “Despite $37 million of taxpayer-funded advertising this report shows that the truth about the Howard Government’s workplace watchdog is that it is failing Australian workers.

    “If you have been sacked unfairly or suffered a pay cut it could take six months or more for your case to be heard.

    “The caseload for the Howard Governments workplace inspectors has jumped from 25 cases per inspector to 40 since WorkChoices came into effect and further increases in caseloads are expected.

    “But besides the lack of resources the main issue is that the WorkChoices IR laws are fundamentally unfair and need to be torn up,” said Ms Burrow.