March 21, 2008

Lies and drivel

Australian Workplace Awards have been in use for at least a decade, and even when not specifically in use, much the same ends were and can be achieved with a common law contract. Just ask any executive or high income earner or anyone not covered by an industry award.

Howard's bastard-child WorkChoices did not usher in AWAs, nor are AWAs and WorkChoices interchangeable concepts.

Last week, in parliament, Julia Gillard lied to the whole country when she treated the two concepts as being one and the same. Her simplification was deceitful, and founded in a deep and abiding belief that the Australian public are utterly stupid.

She also lied and manipulated like a dank fungus when she stated that the Libs had shown their true colors, that is, their intention to reintroduced WorkChoices if they even happened to win government.

Worse, the aspiring fascist managed to achieve these disgusting manoeuvres by proposing a motion that statutory employment contracts should never be reintroduced in Australia.

"The Coalition fought bitterly against this for hours, filibustering, accusing Labor of running a "jackboot government" by gagging their retaliation, and walking out of the House before finally returning to vote against the motion.

Ms Gillard seized on this opposition, saying that the Coalition had revealed its hand on reintroducing WorkChoices if it were re-elected.

"We flushed them out," she said. "Today the Liberal Party had the opportunity to put their signature on the death certificate of WorkChoices and, instead of doing that, they sought to revive it."

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop accused Labor of foul play and wasting precious sitting time with an arrogant and ideological stunt.

But when Ms Gillard's motion was introduced after the bill had passed, the chamber erupted. The manager of Opposition business, Joe Hockey, accused Labor of wasting time only a day after asking him to curtail the speaking list to ensure more Government bills could be passed.

Liberal MP Christopher Pyne branded the Labor motion ridiculous and foolish, and implied, with his cry "bring out the guillotine", that Ms Gillard was like the vengeful Charles Dickens' character Madame Defarge.

Fellow Liberal Tony Abbott accused Ms Gillard of shrieking and Labor of "jackboot government".

Oh, did I mention that one of the 37 amendments passed by the government- of which Julia Gillard is the Deputy Prime Minister - is that it will let companies re-hire former workers on statutory contracts.

Gillard gives new life to the the words of Larry Hardiman: "the word 'politics' is derived from the word 'poly', meaning 'many', and the word 'ticks', meaning 'blood sucking parasites'."

Uproar ...


  1. Yep..Jules is a piece of work alright, Caz!
    And to make matters worse she is still sporting the basin haircut, and wearing her trademark "daggy" grey suits.

    "Get thee to a nunnery" I say..

    That.. or take a leaf out of the elegent Julie Bishop's book.

    What say our resident prist Father Park?

  2. Well, our resident prist is not catholic in his politics Kath!

    Although he might find Gillard more becoming in a nice choir shirt, or such.

  3. The resident prist does, though, have a passing understanding of the IR landscape.

    Firstly, Australian Workplace Agreements – AWAs – are indeed the direct product of the former Howard government’s WorkChoices programme. AWAs did not exist prior to WorkChoices. Whereas the “concepts” are not interchangeable, as you point out, they are, in fact, inseparable.

    Much confusion arises over “common law” contracts and their being equated with AWAs. These too are not interchangeable concepts; they are different creatures. Common law contracts are often utilised for salaried “staff” rather than hourly rate “floor workers”. Those workers who populate the floors of warehouses, factories and the like are not considered “staff” they are termed wages staff. Most often the supervisors or factory/warehouse line management are “staff” and are on some form of common law contract stipulating salary, super and other matters. They will likely have performance related matters loaded into them as well.

    The difference with an AWA is that it was – without any doubt – the Howard government’s intention to roll them out to cover the average process worker, storeman, forklift driver, slaughterhouse worker, etc. These workers, until WorkChoices, had been classified under an industry award or Enterprise Bargaining Agreement which defined how they were engaged and at what rate of pay. These awards and agreements provided scaffolding within which a worker’s terms of engagement were contructed. They provided for annual leave, shift loadings for those working nights, provisions for the engagement of individuals on Saturdays and Sundays and for loading of pay for having to work beyond the normal day amongst other matters.

    The object of an AWA was to remove – near in its entirety – that scaffolding. It would be stripped back to the absolute minimum. Even then many that have come to light ignored even that minimum – hence the former government’s utter refusal to release the data on them. There was to be no safety net: it wasn’t required. That last, an absolutely foolish act of bravado brought on by control of both houses, was something for which John Howard and his government paid with their comfy ministerial privileges.

    This was what was planned for the industrial areas of the country. Just how much certain industry groups were enamoured of the AWA concept might best be judged by Peter Hendy’s reaction to Howard introducing the changes WorkChoices last year. Hendy’s word was “betrayal”. He knew exactly what these iniquitous agreements were intended for and resented the application of a “safety net” and oversight.

    They were still being rolled out up to last week. I have some thirty or so at a West Sydney warehouse who were, early this year, offered permanent work under an AWA. Two took it up. There was no negotiation; none whatsoever. A speech was given on the floor by the DC manager making the offer with the direction that those interested come upstairs individually and pick up an AWA. They were not even personalised by name. They offered these people $16 and some thirty some cents per hour (I pay them $19.90 under an award – somewhat “above award”). To put that into context, similar distribution centres in the area are offering between $18.50 and $20.90 for the same "permanent" work.

    Again, there was no negotiation entered into on any matter regarding the nature of the offered employment. This is Hendy’s world of “individual negotiation” where workers have the power to negotiate their terms of employment. Utter garbage. Collective bargaining by an employer is what it is.

    It might be argued that they won. They are, after all, still there under my employment terms. The company needs them to get the business done. That, though, will not alter the company’s view of how it would engage and remunerate them.

    The result of all this Hendy-like intransigence has been the entry of the union on the site. It was a “Greenfield’s” site and there was never a union. There is now. Oh joy; oh fun.

    So, no, the concepts of AWAs and WorkChoices are not interchangeable. Never forget that they are inseparable though. One is the child of the other.

  4. Oh, Father, Father, Father, I was signing AWAs YEARS ago, have signed many of them since. The body that assesses the fairness test and whatnot was set up YEARS ago to administer AWAs.

    WorkChoices, did not usher in AWAs.

    WorkChoices was an arsehole's path to strip-away formerly guaranteed worker's rights and entitlements, coupled with mechanisms that allowed employers to FORCE people off their awards and onto grossly unfair AWAs. (A option that many employers embraced with ugly enthusiasm.)

    AWAs were introduced more than ten years ago. Howard sure waited a long time if he'd had some inkling that he was going to screw-over workers with AWAs. Or maybe it took him eight years to figure out that he could use AWAs as the mechanism to achieve his unsavory and immoral goals.

    Whatever the case, one might be the child of the other, but given the difficult conception, it was an IVF assisted childbirth.

    Prior to WorkChoices, AWAs were just fine for a good eight years.

  5. BTW - I am talking about AWAs, not common law contracts, the latter of which continue to be used in many workplaces, despite AWAs being an option since 1998.

  6. Yes, yes Caz: AWAs came into being in 1996. They were made possible by the enabling legislation under section 326 of the Workplace Relations Act 1996. This was nowhere near as far as the government wished to go as it was stymied by the Senate which enforced changes and allowed the continued remit unions in representing their members in collective bargaining. After much angst and argument the Howard government accepted what it wound up with: a somewhat watered down version of its wishes that still facilitated a choice.

    It then opened the second front: asking states to "refer" their IR powers to the Feds. Had this happened on a wider scale that simply Victoria in 1996, we will have arrived at where we largely did in 2005.

    With the winning of the numbers in the senate in 2004 Howard's government was emboldened to renew the ideological battle. The Howard government set about its amendments to its Workplace Relations Act with its second tranche named, as only a government can, Work Choices. This enabled all of that which Howard had failed to get up in 1996. This amending act, among many other things such as essentially disabling union access, enabled the foisting of “individual agreements” upon the average blue-collar worker. No choice entered into as the Cowra meat workers found out in a rather obscene hurry.

    The use of the Corporations powers to accrete State IR powers to Canberra completed the coup de gras. The valves of the of the IR dam, with employers now in the control room, were now wide open. As they most certainly will have been in 1996 had the original bill sailed through the Senate.

  7. We are saying different things, how???!!!

    Ah, and let's not forget that an AWA was almost a status symbol prior to WorkChoices, since only people on packages that included bonuses, salary sacrificing for cars, etc, were, in general employed via an AWA. AWAs were not for the peons.

    Oddly, new AWAs can continue to be implemented until August. Hence why so many companies, particularly big organizations, such as Telstra, and busy forcing huge numbers of staff onto new AWAs. The stench of WorkChoices will linger long.

  8. WorkChoices was an arsehole's path to strip-away formerly guaranteed worker's rights and entitlements, coupled with mechanisms that allowed employers to FORCE people off their awards and onto grossly unfair AWAs.

    Ans so we are saying different things in emphasis only.

    I would state that the amending legislation to the Workplace Relations Act, the ridiculously named WorkChoices, was simply only the restoring of the 1996 act to what the government originally wanted. We would have largely had the 2005 experience in 1996 had it passed as presented. In that sense AWAs were introduced in 1996 and only properly armed in 2005 by virtue of the government having the numbers to do so. Had those numbers been available in 1996 the AWA will not have been born only partly functional.

    Sort of like buying a computer and having the Senate strip you of its operating system. Howard re-installed it in 2005.

  9. Ah, Bertie, "what if" ...

    What if Hitler had never been born.

    What if Bill Gates had been a girl.

    What if Prince Charles was gay.

    What if the Earth was flat.

    See, I don't even remember what they tried to introduce, but failed, way back when, and I've never been forced onto an AWA - heck, they want to pay me serious money, I'll signed damned anything.

    Howard didn't get it through then. They got it through only a couple of years ago, and it clearly was going to suck and blow, despite most of the public believing whole-heartedly that it wouldn't effect them.

    I never supported WorkChoices. Way, way back in the days of CC, I remember commenting that the blowback from WorkChoices would be ferocious when the "next" election rolled around (which was still 2 years off) - I thought it was a bleedin' obvious comment to make. I was howled down and ridiculed, basically as being 'stupid'.

    (OK, every now and again I wistfully indulge in fantasies involving "what if" Keating had won a second term, and a third ... *sigh*.)