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NZEI, PPTA Presidents Join Rallies in Australia

Joint Media Release
November 29, 2006
For Immediate Use

NZEI and PPTA Presidents Join Worker Rallies in Australia

The presidents of New Zealand’s two largest education unions will join Australian workers tomorrow (Thursday November 30) in protesting against industrial laws being used to reduce pay and working conditions in Australia.

Tomorrow, NZEI Te Riu Roa national president, Irene Cooper and PPTA president, Debbie Te Whaiti, will be at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, known as ‘the People’s Ground,’ for a rally organised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).

The ‘Fill the G’ rally in Melbourne will be the largest of more than 300 rallies and marches being held across Australia. The day of protest is being held a year after more than half a million Australians took to the streets in opposition to industrial laws introduced by Prime Minister John Howard’s federal government.

“These laws are a major attack on workers in Australia, whose pay and working conditions are being seriously eroded,” says NZEI Te Riu Roa National President Irene Cooper.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the real average earnings
for Australians have fallen since the laws were passed in December last year. Their average earnings fell by 1.2% in the 12 months from September 2005, to September 30 this year.

The ACTU says the drop in earnings, and the increase in living costs in this period, means working Australians have experienced a fall in the value of average weekly earnings of $13 a week.

“Working Australians are experiencing the same type of assault that New Zealand workers endured in the 1990s under the Employment Contracts Act, says PPTA president Debbie Te Whaiti.

“The ECA was used to push down wages and working conditions, led to record unemployment, increased the gap between the rich and the poor and caused major damage to our economy,” says Debbie Te Whaiti.

The teachers and other educational professionals that NZEI and the PPTA represent, opposed the Employment Contracts Act and oppose this sort of legislation being imposed in any country.

“New Zealanders know that it’s bad for workers, bad for families and bad for the economy, because it causes damage that takes years to recover from,” says Irene Cooper.

“That’s why Irene and I are crossing the Tasman,” says Debbie Te Whaiti. “To stand alongside Australian workers and in particular fellow teachers and other educational professionals, to show we support them in their fight against the most serious attack they’ve ever faced from an Australian government.”

Key features of the industrial legislation passed by the Australian federal government led by Prime Minister John Howard.

- 3.7 million Australians employed at worksites with less than 100 employees are not covered by laws that protect them from unfair dismissal.

- Australians employed by businesses with more than 100 employees can be unfairly dismissed if their employer states that that their dismissal was made for “operational reasons”

- The laws enable all Australian employers to strip workers of their existing pay and working conditions and place them on an individual contract, known as an Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA) with lower pay and reduced conditions.

Figures compiled by the Australian federal agency that registers AWAs (individual contracts) show almost two thirds scrap penalty rates. A third cut overtime pay. Half scrap shift allowances A third do away with public holiday payments.

- The industrial laws also severely restricts access to worksites by union officials.

- If a worker is covered by an AWA, unions are not able to check that the agreement meets minimum requirements.

- Restrict workers from taking take industrial action when negotiations break down.

The Australian federal government is taking 107 Western Australian workers to court for taking part in industrial action supporting a sacked health and safety representative. It claims the strike was illegal. Under the new industrial relations laws for building workers, each timber worker faces a fine of up to $28,000.

- Stops the Industrial Relations Commission from setting minimum wage rates.

The ‘Fill the G’ rally at the Melbourne Cricket Ground takes place from 10am to midday tomorrow (Thurs November 30) New Zealand time.
It will be broadcast by satellite to each state capital in Australia and more than 300 regional centres across Australia.


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