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IR Bill: links update #5

Photo of Sydney protest rally

Labor and Liberal, workers united in fear of the future
SMH,  November 16, 2005, by Andrew Clark
...a Gymea Bay construction worker, risked his employer's wrath to join the protest: "I've copped it from work for being here - I'll have to make up the time.
"I'm worried about the young guys. I'm in a fairly good position in my company but these young guys - they shouldn't be used as commodities." - http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/labor-and-liberal-workers-united-in-fear-of-the-future/2005/11/15/1132016796614.html

Mass rallies rock Australia
The Standard (Hong Kong) Lawrence Bartlett
Hundreds of thousands of workers staged what unionists called the biggest protest in Australia's history against Prime Minister John Howard's proposed labor reforms.- http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?pp_cat=17&art_id=5697&sid=5491103&con_type=1

Laws don't protect workers: Andrews
News.com.au November 16, 2005
CONTINUED labour market regulation would not protect Australian jobs in another recession, Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said today. Mr Andrews accused the ACTU of refusing to accept the necessity of workplace reforms, pointing to the current riots in France and Australia's own past as evidence that rigid labour laws don't create jobs. - http://finance.news.com.au/story/0,10166,17264357-31037,00.html

Sydney rally

Protests against industrial reforms held in Australia
Xinhua (China View) 15 Nov 2005
However, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said more than 95 percent of workers had ignored the call-out to join the protest against the federal government's Work Choices Bill, currently the subject of a Senate inquiry.
In the past few days, big companies and the government have been warning the workers about the risk of considerable fines and damages for economic losses if they went on strike in breach of their employment agreements. - http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2005-11/15/content_3784567.htm

Blog views

Workchoices: is this type of industrial relations reform necessary?
The Tower Blog, November 13, 2005
I have owned my small business for 25 years. Across I employ over 50 people. Most full time and some casual. I see no reason for workplace reform of their extent bring brought in and am concerned that the changes will force me to act in ways I am not comfortable with.
I would have liked the government to consult more with small business as I know I am not alone in thinking these changes are bad for the community and bad for small business. This is not socially responsible legislation - http://www.towersystems.com.au/tower_blog/archives/2005/11/workchoices_is.html

Reflections of an industrial relations protest
Burn the Phoenix, 15 Nov 2005
Attending the protest today I was struck by the deep feeling of sentiment in the crowd (which reportedly numbered about 175 000 in Melbourne), which was coupled with a sense of listlessness, as though they were searching for a point of unity in a society so patently devoid of it, regardless of people’s present desires. Doubtlessly the only sense of unity was that aroused by opposition to John Howard and his Liberal government, or by superficial catch-cries about rights, wages, and conditions. - http://burnthephoenix.blogspot.com/2005/11/reflections-of-industrial-relations.html


Industrial relations campaign update
Red Rag, 15 Nov 2005
175 000 in Melbourne, 30 000 in Sydney, about 60 000 across Queensland, tens of thousands in Adelaide, at least 10 000 in Perth (despite the oppressive heat), tens of thousands more at smaller rallies in regional centres — and even a contingent in New Zealand. The Community Day of Protest was a resounding success. Melbourne was especially successful — the turnout doubled expectations and represented the city’s “biggest political protest on record”. -

IR Social engineering will go ahead, despite protests
The Daily Magnet, November 15, 2005
Kevin Andrews today said IR changes which will impact on working and middle class Australians will go ahead despite thousands of Australian workers protesting around the country today. - http://thedailymagnet.blogspot.com/2005/11/ir-social-engineering-will-go-ahead.html

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re: IR Bill: links update #5

The "Liberal voter" quoted in the SMH piece is not uncommon in my recent experience:

Rob King, an information assistant, said: "They didn't tell us they were going to do this. They didn't go into any detail on this. I voted for him [Howard] at the last election. Had I known I would have voted Labor.

Recently some friends of mine in the building industry said to me that they need two things to be able to pay off their mortgages: (1) low interest rates and (2) the $200-300 or so a they get each week in overtime. They said they voted Liberal because of their interest rate promises (read anti-Labor scare campaign), but if they lose their overtime they would be worse off than if interest rates went up substantially. Now with the IR changes these guys are genuinely worried and won't be voting Liberal next time.

re: IR Bill: links update #5

Today there is a story at Salon.com about why we should resist at all costs U.S. style unfair IR laws in Australia. Halliburton and its subcontractors hired hundreds of undocumented Latino workers to clean up after Katrina -- only to mistreat them and throw them out without pay.

re: IR Bill: links update #5

From now on, of course, all members of federal parliament must negotiate any changes in salary or conditions on a one-to-one basis with the Speaker.

They will from now on operate on an a contract of employment and must not discuss their contract with any other members. They will not be allowed any form of collective agreement, so the Parliamentary Salaries and Allowances Committee must be abolished forthwith.

Their away-from-home and travel allowances will, of course, no longer be part of their contract, and their employers, the Australian public, will be free to dismiss them as required by operational or technological reasons.

This will happen, won't it?

re: IR Bill: links update #5

Barry Rutherford, your comments on Halliburton are disquietening. An already very visible bad guy and this is just more of the same.

Do you have doco that clearly supports this Barry as I'd like a read!

re: IR Bill: links update #5

Ross if you go to salon.com you can read the story there yourself.

re: IR Bill: links update #5

I, Jurgen Howart, rejoice in the divisions that my new industrial relations laws have created. See employer pitted viciously against employee. Hear the howls from the underprivileged, the handicapped, the unemployed. I rub my hands with glee as the socialist dissenters are thrown out of their houses and jailed. It will not be long before I rid the Austral Realm of the scourge of pitiful communists and welfare recipients. I will soon realise my dream of a Realm where every true Aryan will worship me as their supreme leader!

re: IR Bill: links update #5

I find it interesting that I cannot find anything reported on Professor Ron McCallum's Press Club talk yesterday re the new IR laws. For someone who had actually perused (and understood) the total bill it was quite revealing the way he deconstructed it. Anyway you could say we have all been warned for as the good professor says, "they know not what they do".

Personally I think many of the journos there did not report for they simply could not understand the complexities of this very bad bill that soon will be law.

re: IR Bill: links update #5

Hi Barry, Ross. Here is the link to the Salon.com article Gulf Coast slaves. You may have to agree to suffer an ad before you can read this interesting article in full.


... An immigrant rights group recently filed complaints with the Department of Labor on behalf of Martinez and 73 other workers allegedly owed more than $56,000 by Tovar. Tovar claims that she let the workers go because she was not paid by her own bosses at United Disaster Relief. In turn, UDR manager Zachary Johnson, who declined to be interviewed for this story, told the Washington Post on Nov. 4 that his company had not been paid by KBR for two months. ...

Right after Katrina barreled through the Gulf Coast, the Bush administration relaxed labor standards, creating conditions for rampant abuse, according to union leaders and civil rights advocates. Bush suspended the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires employers to pay "prevailing wages" for labor used to fulfill government contracts. The administration also waived the requirement for contractors rebuilding the Gulf Coast to provide valid I-9 employment eligibility forms completed by their workers. These moves allowed Halliburton/KBR and its subcontractors to hire undocumented workers and pay them meager wages (regardless of what wages the workers may have otherwise been promised). The two policies have recently been reversed in the face of sharp political pressure: Bush reinstated the Davis-Bacon Act on Nov. 3, while the Department of Homeland Security reinstated the I-9 requirements in late October, noting that it would once again "exercise prosecutorial discretion" of employers in violation "on a case-by-case basis." But critics say Bush's policies have already allowed extensive profiteering beneath layers of legal and political cover. ...

Halliburton/KBR is the general contractor with overarching responsibility for the federal cleanup contracts covering Katrina-damaged naval bases. Even so, there is an utter lack of transparency with the process -- and that invites malfeasance, says James Hale, a vice president of the Laborers' International Union of North America. "To my knowledge, not one member of Congress has been able to get their hands on a copy of a contract that was handed out to Halliburton or others," Hale says. "There is no central registry of Katrina contracts available. No data on the jobs or scope of the work." Hale says that his union's legislative staff has pressed members of Congress for more information; apparently the legislators were told that they could not get copies of the contracts because of "national security" concerns.

re: IR Bill: links update #5

Kerri Browne: "Hale says that his union's legislative staff has pressed members of Congress for more information; apparently the legislators were told that they could not get copies of the contracts because of "national security" concerns."

All sorts of information is now being withheld on the basis of 'national security'.

At the rally on Tuesday, an MUA representative said that they were unable to obtain documents regarding to the Patricks dispute is 2002 for this reason. (???!!!)

The MUA alleged that Peter Reith lied to the High Court and say this is why he was whisked out of the country.

Any efforts by them to obtain documents relating to this have been stonewalled by the Govt, also in the interest of 'national security'.

re: IR Bill: links update #5

With the implementation of the IR reforms our kids wages will be pushed down and a flow-on effect will be felt by middle income workers. But wait a minute, are not politicians' salaries geared to the cost of living with automatic increases in their salaries?

re: IR Bill: links update #5

Anyone got a link to the Press Club speech yesterday? Professor McCallum's views of course should be discounted. He is only a law professor, with expertise in labour law, and we all know in the 'new Australian' democracy, that we should reject the views of experts, in favour of the views of our elected leaders. Why would you take any notice of educators about curriculum, when we can just ask Brendan Nelson how we should educate the next generation. After all, they are the government and they must know what's best for us right?

re: IR Bill: links update #5

Jane, "Professor McCallum's views of course should be discounted. He is only a law professor, with expertise in labour law, and we all know in the 'new Australian' democracy, that we should reject the views of experts, in favour of the views of our elected leaders."

It is now official, Andrews on AM:

The Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews has rejected the latest criticisms of his industrial relations changes. He says they'll help Australians balance work and family and has brushed off the submission from the 150 academics, saying their arguments are no substitute for common sense.

Here is also a story on Pru Goward disagreeing with the government on IR:

Someone else has found fault with the Federal Government's Industrial Relations Bill, and she plans to say so today. Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Pru Goward, will tell a Senate inquiry that the bill could undermine the ability of many Australians to balance work and family, and could lead to discrimination against vulnerable workers. In her submission, Ms Goward outlines what she sees as deficiencies with the proposed Australian Fair Pay Commission and recommends the Government require the Commission to adjust the minimum wage on a regular, preferably annual basis.

Given the level of disagreement one wonders what the 'common' in commonsense means to the government.

re: IR Bill: links update #5

This link from the Sydney Morning Herald may be of interest. This link is an opinion piece entitled "Choice overboard".

A section:

"As several articles in the press have recently noted, the US minimum wage has risen over the past 10 years from $US5 ($6.50) an hour to $US5.15. At the same time, executive pay packets have risen into the stratosphere, in some cases totting up hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

I was last in the US in 1978 and remember being shocked that shop and restaurant windows carried notices that they were hiring at $5 an hour - better than minimum, but still low.

Despite the US's status as the world's richest economy, its deregulated labour market has failed those at the bottom of the job ladder - workers with no bargaining power - miserably."

ForIan, my understanding is that politicians, and judges, salaries and conditions are decided by the Remuneration Tribunal, a supposedly independent panel that looks at those salaries separately to the rest of us. This panel sets the pace for Federal MP's and the States have tied their MP salaries to the Feds for obvious reasons.

In other words there is no real public scrutiny of the process. If anyone can correct any comment here I'd appreciate it as my experience with that data ceased some six years ago.

For Bob, I heard Kevin Andrews making that statement. He didn't even bat an eyelid! Seems some areas you need expert advice, if you ask the right question that is (anti abortion pill ballsup) but only when it suits. Those academics all obviously have no idea. After all they aren't experienced liars are they?

re: IR Bill: links update #5

For those that don't know, Ron McCallum is not only an eminent professor of labour law, he acheived that position, against all odds, despite being blind.

As such he is uniquely positioned to understand the effects of this legislation on workers and workers with disability.

I, too, have done various searches to find the substance of his address, bt no success.

Perhaps he would make a transcript available to be published on this site if requested by Margo.

re: IR Bill: links update #5

Today's letter to all Federal pollies:

The manner and means for the IR legislation have been established. Only the motives have been concealed from the Australian public. Someone is not being honest with us, nor you.

Just as we have all been guity of deferring too much to the government, what is my government deferring to in it's turn?

This much is obvious:

1. "The Economy" no longer has any basis in reality.

2. The books are cooked.

3. Rather than fix the accounting, Australian society is to be altered to fit the books. Can you believe it?

* * *

I will give you my best estimate of the motive:

1. The diminution of liquid energy supplies will cause renal failure of the global monetary system.

2. Monetary economics has no answer to a human crisis.

3. Given a choice, classical economists will instictively value money over human life.

* * *

Believe me when I tell you that this has nothing to do with capitalism, socialism, consumerism or any other "ism". I have made every effort to divest myself of my personal baggage, the better to make these simple observations.

All that I ask is that you do the same.

re: IR Bill: links update #5

Thanks for linking to my post on IR. I also have some friendly Law student friends who've done a whole pile o' research on the anti-terror laws, available here if you're interested.

ed Hamish: thank you fieldmouse. I like your blog. However, this is a real-name site, so unless you want to be that public, this will be your last post here. Contact Margo about using a non de plume if you wish.

re: IR Bill: links update #5

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Ross Gittens in today's SMH points out the bleeding obvious. He does though put it somewhat better than me. Ross makes the quite eloquent point that the deregulation on offer here is only for one side of the equation:

WorkChoices is so one-sided it's quite mistaken to think of it as "deregulation" of the labour market. Employers may have been deregulated but unions have been subjected to more, highly prescriptive regulation.

And, ipso-facto those they represent – even those not in unions who benefit from union bargaining.

As I've said before, employers will collectively and pattern bargain by using AWA industry/company templates (they do already) on which the only changes will be company and individual details. In this, workers are to be denied such an option:

Just a few examples of the bill's lack of even-handedness: although it outlaws pattern bargaining by unions, it does nothing to prevent employers presenting individual workers with identical Australian workplace agreements to sign…

The emasculation of the Industrial Relations Commission and the diminished role of awards will weaken the position of the unions and their members - not to mention all the ununionised workers who've been protected by the old system without really knowing it.

But the most rabidly anti-worker aspect of the changes - and the thing that will make our wage-fixing arrangements more doctrinaire than anything in America or other developed countries - is the effort to discourage collective bargaining.

Only in Australia will employees be denied the right to bargain collectively if that's what a majority of them want. Almost equally amazing is the provision that will allow employers to unilaterally terminate agreements (whether collectively bargained or individual) after their nominal expiry date, provided only that they give 90 days' notice.

When that happens, workers won't fall back on the provisions of their awards, they'll fall back on nothing more than the Government's five minimum conditions - the minimum wage set by the Fair Pay Commission, four weeks annual leave, 10 days sick leave, 12 months unpaid maternity leave and ordinary hours of work averaging 38 hours a week. Could anything be more calculated to weaken unionised workers' bargaining power?

Not without making union membership illegal. Why is collective/pattern bargaining fine for the one side but aggressively discouraged – at risk of punitive measures – for the other?

re: IR Bill: links update #5

I wonder if John Howard whistles this song while he works?

Making Plans For Nigel

We're only making plans for Nigel
We only want what's best for him
We're only making plans for Nigel
Nigel just needs this helping hand
And if young Nigel says he's happy
He must be happy
He must be happy in his work
We're only making plans for Nigel
He has his future in BHP Steel
We're only making plans for Nigel
Nigel's whole future is as good as sealed
And if young Nigel says he's happy
He must be happy
He must be happy in his work
Nigel is not outspoken
But he likes to speak
And loves to be spoken to
Nigel is happy in his work
We're only making plans for Nigel.

re: IR Bill: links update #5

You will probably have heard some argument today about Barnaby's request to have penalty payments applied to what he refers to as Iconic Holidays.

The Chamber of Commerce, I think they are called, have stated that such a request is introducing something that doesn't already exist and Barnaby says that's not true.

Well, actually they are both correct. You see most awards etc currently define when overtime or penalty payments are applicable which includes higher rates for Public Holidays.

However these conditions are only payable up to a defined salary level. In the APS it's about the ASO6 level from memory. Anyone above that level is deemed to have accepted the possibility of working extra hours on any day without additional payment. The assumption is the person accepts the extra responsibility both time and work wise.

So they are both correct, but neither has mentioned there is a current ceiling on the penalty and overtime payments. There is no reason that should not be inluded in the new legislation rather than simply demanding all penalty rates be deleted.

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