A South Australian judge has highlighted the manifest disadvantage to a 15 year old employee of the Federal Governments individual contracts (AWAs). The AWA paid the young woman 25% less than her minimum award entitlement.

The judge also harshly reflected upon the fact that it is lawful for employers to deny an employee real choice by requiring that AWAs be signed as a condition of employment.

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said that the AWA, notwithstanding that it paid 25% less than the award entitlement, also purported to cash-out annual leave, annual leave loading and sick leave.

This is one of the most disgusting and graphic examples of how the Governments AWAs are already used to exploit workers, particularly young people. If its this bad now, just imagine how bad it will be when the Governments radical industrial relations laws are passed, said Mr Combet.

The South Australian Industrial Relations Court also found that more than 50 other AWAs had been approved by the Federal Governments Office of the Employment Advocate (OEA) on the same terms as meeting the Governments so-called no disadvantage test.

The Office of Employment Advocate is a pathetic, biased farce said Mr Combet. How could AWAs which undercut minimum award pay standards by 25% and get rid of leave entitlements pass a no-disadvantage test?

The Governments push for individual contracts (AWAs) threatens the basic rights of Australian workers, and this case demonstrates a sign of things to come under the Howard Governments industrial relations agenda.

The Federal Government wants to abolish the current award safety net no disadvantage test and wants to allow workers to be put on individual contracts that have just five minimum conditions:

  • A minimum hourly rate of pay (currently $12.75 an hour)
  • 8 days sick leave
  • 4 weeks annual leave
  • Unpaid parental leave
  • Weekly working hours
  • Under the Governments workplace reforms it will be legal for employers to put workers onto individual contracts that are lower than the award, cutting take home pay by getting rid of conditions like weekend, shift and public holiday rates, overtime, redundancy pay, rostered days off, allowances and casual loadings.

    Australian workers are struggling to keep their heads above water and these changes are going to have a profound impact, not just on their working life but their families and their livelihood, said Mr Combet.