Protected by law

Like everyone, I’ve been bombarded with government advertising pointing out how marvellous the new world of Industrial Relations is going to be, and in particular how all my existing rights are Protected by Law!. So I thought I’d call the Workchoice hotline number to see what would happen if I was asked to sign an AWA that required me to work on public holidays. I had a few follow-up questions ready but the operator who answered, while trying to be helpful, couldn’t do much more than offer to send me the brochure. Looking around, I see Crikey had much the same experience.

I don’t suppose anything is going to stop this legislation, but the government has certainly chewed up an awful lot of political capital on this one, without any clear idea why it wants it (apart from repealing unfair dismissals laws, which are loathed by the small business base). If the economy ever turns sour, they will be in big trouble.

25 thoughts on “Protected by law

  1. I personally think the IR reforms are too mild to be helpful. The minimum wage is being kept at the current level so the likelyhood of generating additional jobs through these reforms seems low. Meaningful reform would have reduced the minimum wage and compensated people through tax breaks.

    What these laws do achieve however is a massive distraction from the more worrying anti-terror laws. The latter are seriously worrying. The under mine the whole tradition of innocent until proven guilty and due process. I voted ALP last election because I found some of this stuff to be worrying. Now the ALP sound worse than the government on this issue.

    I really want to vote for a liberal party. But it seems that there is none on offer. I hope the LDP can get listed asap. It needs more members before it can do that. If anybody has an interest then please join the LDP so they can get listed as a Federal political party and I can vote for an real alternative next election.

  2. “Compensated people through tax breaks” requires things to flow through. That time lag creates a cost, and it’s the main reason why I favour a negative payroll tax with no time lags, carried by a broad based production tax (like the GST), to going through any other part of the tax system like income tax.

    And there’s still the problem of what happens at the interface to the global economy. Ideally there would be some simple tariff system equalising the pressures with countries that didn’t have something similar, or a large part of the GDP gain would be realised in other countries – without that it might have an unaffordable net cost here. But we are already paying that cost…

  3. Anyone wanna lay bets on how long it takes for the current booklet to be pulped (again!) and retitled:

    “Keeping Interest Rates Low: The New Industrial Rlations Proposal”

  4. SerfChoices offers a great deal to the lawyers who are onto a winner.

    It is truly frightening to see those smiling faces in the ads which have an eerie resemblance to the worst excesses of Communist or fascist propoganda.

    Very few workers are demanding the right to choose a contract which is clearly going to act against their family life and leisure pursuits for pay rates determined solely by the employer. Many of these employers will have a standard contract for all workers. Awards and Enterprise Bargains are public information whereas AWAs are secret and controlled. In addition there will be those who are treated like day labourers – something which brought terrible hardship to families in the past.

    What we need is Good King Richard to take on the evil King John and the Sherrif of Nottingham.

    All ordinary people know that if they have to take on a boss they won’t be the winner as they won’t be able to afford a lawyer or to meet the employer’s legal costs if they lose – and they well might. After all what employer would be stupid enough to say “I am sacking you because you are pregnant ” when all that is needed is to say ” I’m sacking you”

    Having protection under the law is one thing – to be able to win at law quite another. The reason the ACTU ads are so convincing is that the situations are not so different to what happens now. Viewers don’t need too much imagination to see that they will have no rights at all.

  5. Its really the continuation of a trend. As a younger person in the workplace I get to see and feel the difference between my generation and those who went through ten years before. In the same company the newer (and usually younger) employees are all on contracts. Lower rates, decreased benefits, less security etc. But its the intangible things too. Because you are a contractor the company has no stake in you and treat you differently because of it. There is very little or no training. Little scope for career advancement. No little thank you fringe benefits etc. It makes you feel unvalued. It sounds whiny to say that, i guess, but having a sense of belonging in your job is something that is very important to alot of people.

    For me the significance of the IR legislation is not its direct effects. Unions are not part of my workplace and we are all on individual contracts already. Its more about what it says about the Prime Minister’s thinking. In effect he is saying he does not believe the problems I have stated above are real and is in effect endorsing what is happening.

  6. In keeping with the economy souring theme can anybody direct me to any research (preferrably peer reviewed) on job security and effects on demand

  7. I think John Howard genuinely thinks we would be better off with a harder, meaner and sadder world, where we all take on total responsibility for ourselves,and no-one else can be blamed for anything.

    It’s that old Calvinist credo: “if you’re not suffering, you’re not doing it right. If you are suffering you deserved it and it will make you a better person”.

    JH lives in a morbid fear that someone, somewhere, is having fun and will not be made to pay.

  8. Imagine the average joe – he sees the ads

    He see’s “protected by law”

    So he thinks – what changes?

    Two paths he could take from there

    Nothing changes – what’s all the fuss about?


    Nothing changes – you’re wasting my money on these bunk ads – if nothing changes why do you need to bring in the new laws?

    When all is said and done, they don’t its just a clear cut reversion to the 1890s.

    The centralisation part is mostly good but the rest will hurt.

  9. lurch, there are a few papers around, but here’s a 2004 one by the historically very-anti-job security OECD, which says the arguments are ambiguous and can only be resolved by empirical research, and that the empirical research is mixed. I imagine conceding that over their previous reports gave the boys and girls in Paris some pain.

  10. It would be better if we could all take responsibility for ourselves, but that includes having the resources and the life experience (and personal connections) to do it. Just throwing people in the deep end without preliminary preparation is a very bad way to teach them to swim. Even if they get away once that’s not the same as acquiring the skills and resources for swimming.

    And, of course, thrust this on people long enough and either it will be acclaimed a success because of survivor bias (the ones who couldn’t make it have aged and moved on from the work force anyway), or things really will reach workability but the cost of transition will be ignored in assessing the value of the new system – after all, that cost gets borne by people moving on, so it washes out.

    The sad thing is that real conservatives observed these very issues in the transitions of the industrial revolution. Disraeli was very clear about the divisions in “Sybil”, not just between the two nations of rich and poor but also between the newcomers to the workforce and the older ones being squeezed out with no access to the new opportunities. Real conservatives, if anybody, should learn from the past.

  11. Some were conned but there were also 10 actors . Each were paid 6000 bucks for half a days work. I kid you not.
    Something to smile about.

  12. John

    This is Tiffany Pullshank from Academic Contracting. We provide academic services to the university, and I’m the Account Manager handling your contract.

    I understand you have some problems with your contract and that you have approached the government about this.

    John, can I please remind you that your contract is confidential, as set out in clause 14 on page 5. You are not to discuss any aspects of your contract, including your pay rate, with our client (the university), the media or any other parties. If you have any issues with your contract, you are to contact me.

    Also, your contract is coming up for renewal in December. As you know, the market for professors has become a bit soft, and the university is refusing to pay your existing rate next year.

    There is some good news though, reflecting the joys of contracting. I know you would like more time to go surfing and hang around, and you will get the time to do that, because the university is cutting yours back to 30 paid hours per week.

    Also, they management consultants McCinsey in to do a study and McCinsey found out that a lot of you professors only teach for a few hours a week anyway. So they’ve recommended that universities only pay you for your teaching hours. However they will let you use your office and internet access outside those times, free of charge.

    Must scoot. I’ve got a new BMW convertible to pick up.

  13. Before anyone gets too excited about actors earning $6,000 for half a day’s work, be aware that acting is casual work. That $6,000 might be the only pay they receive for three months.

    The average income for actors is, I think, less than $20,000.

    For many shoots, actors have to be available for several days in case of bad weather or other problems. Sometimes they receive a nominal payment for those days; sometimes they don’t. Where they do receive such payments, it’s due to the work of their union.

  14. Fair point,Tony. Though I believe the rate of 6000 , is double the normal rate. It appears 10 people received this fee. One a doctor, who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. His wife may well have been an actress,their child an acting prodigy. 18,000? for the mornings work ,while others were given a pittance and lied to, regarding the nature of the ads.
    Surely a tad inequitable.
    Maybe the real issue is, why are taxpayers funds being used in such a way?

  15. john d, you’re perfectly corrrect to be concerned at extravagent spending on these ads. It’s up to $40 million now, by the way.

    I was responding to snuh’s asking if the actors were on contracts, with its intimation that contracting (casual work) pays well.

  16. “I don’t suppose anything is going to stop this legislation”

    My mail is that Barnaby won’t. There may be others who are against the centralisation aspect, but I doubt that anyone will cross the floor. None of the Nationals, including Barnaby, will lift a finger to help workers or unions.

  17. What I would like to see from the supporters of this regressive piece of crap, is the methodology applied to square Howard’s circle-more employment thorugh better supply (welfare to work or your’e breached) and cheaper prices (5 minimum conditions or take another job), leading to higher productivity (more output through the same number of people, or the same output through less people). How ’bout it? Other than providing a satisfying smack to the backsides of fat lazy treasonous unionists who deserve everything that’s coming and more, can anybody with an ounce of economic nous explain how he gets away with the greatest non sequitor in modern Australian policy making?

  18. The 1996 reforms to the Industrial Relations Act rendered the IRC powerless to impose collective bargaining on employers if they didn’t want it.

    This provision is more anti-collective bargaining even than the United States. In that country, a majority of workers can vote to compel employers to accept collective bargaining.

    This attack on the Australian Industrial Relations regime since 1996 has been one of the most patient campaigns in Australian political history. Only now are the interlocking pieces apparent:

    1. Collective bargaining at the convenience of the employer.

    2. Certain provisions in employment contracts (i.e., unfair dismissal agreements) declared illegal, even if agreed to by employers and employee.

    3. Severe restriction of the scope of legitimate action that may be taken by union officials. (The sedition laws currently being drafted may add teeth to these restrictions.)

    4. Almost complete annulment of the powers of the IRC and replacement by the Fair Wages Commission, who membership is no longer judicial, but is now the gift of the Prime Minister.

    And to think that this became possible because some ALP apparatchiks thought that it was clever to redirect ALP preferences away from the Greens in Victoria to the Family First Party!

    The likely result is industrial guerrilla warfare. Probably the building industry will be the flashpoint. But the scope for widespread confrontation is huge.

    Is this what Howard actually wants?

  19. Well yes katz, I think it is. Which is why he shouldn’t get it from anyone opposed to this garbage, but of course it will happen. There is no doubt that robbed of any formal process for dealing with disputes, employees in any number of industries will take their own action. Sabotage and a range of other less extreme but equally non productive activities will grow. These won’t be counted as industrial action though. You are right that these laws are the most restrictive and repressive IR laws in the OECD. It is also true that every defender of these laws have lied and lied about both their content and about their real purposes and effects. The good news is that poeple may not konw a lot about International Conventions or about the role of global demand on interest rates, but they know a motza about their own circumstances at work.

    BTW, I couldn’t agree more about the results of ALP palukas fiddling with preferences and preferring to see anyone no mattter how reactionary, rather than a Green win the seat. Although I think Senator Fielding will prove a lot less reactionary on this stuff than Howard may have thought. It won’t be enough though. Now where are the econorats here. I have asked a question re increased participation rates and productivity improvements (the public rationale for this crock) and I want an answer!

  20. John

    I spoke with my client (the university) this morning. They’ve decided to go with another candidate for this contract, as from January.

    These days it’s very important to keep your skills up to date. The other candidate has lots of qualifications, including certificates in book-keeping, statistics, Using Excel for Business, Business Communication Skills and other skills that are important in the modern workplace.

    You seem not to have done any any courses since your degree a long time ago. I’m not sure what a PHD is, but it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with economics.

    You do have some good experience, so I could probably find you something else. Why don’t you drop in and I’ll help you update your resume.

    Tiffany Pullshank
    Account Manager (Large Accounts)
    Academic Contracting

  21. “And to think that this became possible because some ALP apparatchiks thought that it was clever to redirect ALP preferences away from the Greens in Victoria to the Family First Party!”

    How did a Victorian preference deal influence the outcome of distribution flows in Queensland?

Comments are closed.