Union Sandbagging Slows Award Simplification
The Hon. Peter Reith, MP
Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business
Leader of the House of Representatives
Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600
6 July 1999
Union Sandbagging Slows Award Simplification And Pay Rises
Low paid workers are being deprived of up to $24 a week in wage rises granted by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission in the 1997 and 1998 Safety Net Review decisions because unions have failed to have their awards varied.
Evidence produced in this year's case showed that by December 1998 more than two thirds of federal awards containing wage rates had not been varied by unions applying for the flow on of either the '97 or '98 decision.
Similarly, unions are dragging the chain when it comes to award simplification.
Despite awards being prescribed to 20 allowable matters from July last year and being given a breathing space of eighteen months prior to that to begin the simplification process unions have deliberately adopted a head in the sand approach.
Yesterday's report by the AIRC that of the 3,197 federal awards 1,046 had been set aside, while a further 246 have been simplified is welcome evidence of the progress being made but it also underscores the need for further legislative measures to simplify awards and speed to process.
In the More Jobs, Better Pay amendments to the WRA introduced last week the Government is moving to further simplify awards and create a requirement that awards be simplified before being further varied.
Predicably the ACTU is feigning outrage at the alleged consequences of this proposal. Jennie George said of the amendments:
"But it is a terrible thing to make it even harder for the low paid and the disadvantaged to get a pay rise of around $12 a week. The low paid must not be held hostage by this Government".
What hypocrisy. Rather than complain about these measures the ACTU and union bosses should have a close look at their own commitment to flowing on the pay rises already granted to the low paid.
Union complaints about government proposals to require awards to be simplified before varied for such wage increases are hardly credible when the unions themselves have failed to immediately apply for a flow on.
The Government's measures will simply force unions to do what they claim they purport to be doing, and that is, to look after the low paid.
It is no wonder people are leaving the union movement when union leaders so callously ignore the needs of their members.
It is about time the ACTU shed its ideologically blinkered vision to reform of the Workplace Relations Act or face the further consequence of mass desertions from their ranks.