More than a million workers on award wages cannot be sure of their rate of pay with the Federal Government acknowledging that the pay scales it publishes are not reliable.

Unions have identified errors of up to $50 a week in some of the Government’s published pay scales and are furious that the Dept of Employment & Workplace Relations has pledged to not prosecute employers that underpay workers because of inaccurate pay scales.

Commenting on the issue today, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

“This is another major problem with the new IR laws that is creating uncertainty and confusion over the pay and entitlements for more than one million working Australians.

These workers do not have reliable information on their pay and entitlements and if they do find they are underpaid they will now be forced to undertake costly legal action in the Federal Court to recover their wages.

Under the new IR laws, minimum pay entitlements are a complex jigsaw of former pay arrangements, the Work Choices changes and the recent decision of the Fair Pay Commission.

Even the President of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) has expressed concern.

Earlier this week the AIRC agreed to a union claim for a $27.40 a week pay rise for award workers and a corresponding increase in allowances.

However, in the process of making its determination, the AIRC acknowledged that there were no reliable documents detailing the pay rates and related entitlements contained in about 4,000 federal and state awards.

Unlike the AIRC, the Fair Pay Commission does not publish pay scales as part of its wage-setting decisions.

Even the Australian Industry Group agrees that this approach has created ‘confusion and uncertainty’.

I suspect that the Federal Government does not want to fix this problem because it plans further IR changes that would abolish the award system entirely,” said Ms Burrow.