Productivity Commission Report:
Some time ago, the Productivity Commission was directed by the Federal Liberal Government to conduct a review of the industrial relations system.
This is despite the Productivity Commission having no expertise in industrial relations.
It is a right wing deregulationist body which always recommends deregulating everything. Its reports are always completely predictable.
It presented its final report to the Federal Government in December.
It is a very bad report.
It attacks your wages and working conditions and even attacks the independent umpire – the Fair Work Commission.
It attacks minimum award wages and working conditions. It attacks penalty rates. It attacks unfair dismissal provisions. It attacks public holidays. It attacks the protection of wages and working conditions in a transfer of business. It attacks the independent umpire – the Fair Work Commission.
It weakens the test for the minimum allowable wages and conditions in enterprise agreements.
It proposes introducing shocking new “Employment Contracts” with wages and conditions dictated by the employer with no negotiations. These contracts would not be subject to approval by the independent umpire – the Fair Work Commission.
MINIMUM WAGES AND CONDITIONS – CUT!
The Productivity Commission proposes to strip the independent umpire – the Fair Work Commission – of its power to set award wages and conduct an annual wage review.
It also proposes that the Fair Work Commission be stripped of its power to make and vary modern awards which set major working conditions in every major industry including retail, fast food, distribution, hair and beauty, and mannequins and models.
A new tribunal would be set up. This would allow the Federal Liberal Government to stack it with its own appointments who would slash wages and conditions.
This would also affect all members under enterprise agreements. If wages and conditions are slashed in awards, employers will want to slash wages and conditions in enterprise agreements.
PENALTY RATES – CHOPPED!
The Productivity Commission proposes that references in the Fair Work Act to “remuneration for unsociable hours” be removed. The Act would clarify that there is no requirement to provide additional remuneration for weekend work.
The Productivity Commission proposes that Sunday penalty rates in retail, fast food and hospitality be slashed to time-plus-25% with twelve months’ notice of the reduction (meaning that the cut in penalty rates would happen after the Federal election!).
UNFAIR DISMISSAL – HAMMERED!
The Productivity Commission report proposes that unfair dismissal cases should be harder. They should be more costly with more opportunities for the Commission to reject them early in the case. The report says that emphasis of the Act on reinstatement in employment should be removed.
It also says that if the Commission, in conciliation, recommends against a case proceeding, the employer should be able to claim costs against the employee in an unsuccessful case.
PUBLIC HOLIDAYS – BINNED!
The Productivity Commission recommends that employees should have no entitlement to any public holiday penalty rates or time off in lieu in respect of any new public holidays determined by State or Territory Governments.
It is unclear whether this would allow us to keep our penalty rates for the new Easter Sunday public holiday in Victoria.
It would certainly stop SDA members in States and Territories other than Victoria, NSW and the ACT from receiving an entitlement to Easter Sunday.
TRANSFER OF BUSINESS protections – BLOWN AWAY!
Currently, existing employees retain their enterprise agreement wages and conditions when there is a transfer of ownership of a business.
The Productivity Commission recommends that the Fair Work Commission be given the power to cancel an enterprise agreement when there is a transfer of ownership of the business.
In addition, it recommends that the enterprise agreement wages and conditions cease 12 months after the transfer of the business. Employees would automatically lose their enterprise agreement entitlements.
INDEPENDENT UMPIRE – SMASHED!
The Productivity Commission proposes a fundamental attack on the Fair Work Commission.
Under the Productivity Commission’s recommendations, the Fair Work Commission would be stripped of its power to set award wages, to conduct the annual wage review and to make and vary modern awards setting down the majority of working conditions in most industries.
It would be given to a new tribunal which the Liberal Government could stack with its appointees.
Fair Work Commission appointments would only last 10 years, and then they would be out of a job.
Again, this would allow a Liberal Government to stack the Commission with its own appointments.
ENTERPRISE AGREEMENTS – WRECKED!
Employers are complaining that the current Better Off Overall Test (the BOOT), comparing an enterprise agreement to the award is setting wages and conditions too high.
The Productivity Commission wants the BOOT abolished and replaced with a “no disadvantage” test against the award. This will allow for lower wages and conditions in enterprise agreements.
ENTERPRISE CONTRACTS – BROUGHT BACK FROM THE DEAD!
John Howard introduced Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) under a previous Liberal Government which allowed employers to issue individual contracts to employees. These contracts slashed wages and conditions and were not subject to scrutiny by the independent umpire – the Fair Work Commission.
Employees had their take-home pay slashed. They lost penalty rates, public holidays, tea breaks, overtime, 17½% leave loading, rostering protections and much more.
Australian voters rejected John Howard’s AWAs in 2007. He lost Government and was defeated in his own seat.
Now the Productivity Commission has proposed that the Federal Liberal Government legislate for new “Employment Contracts”.
Employers would have the right to issue Employment Contracts to employees in which employers would unilaterally set wages and conditions with no negotiation with workers or unions. They would not be subject to scrutiny by the independent umpire – the Fair Work Commission.
Employment Contracts could be made a condition of employment for new employees. No negotiation – take it or leave it!
Existing employees could be “invited” to sign Employment Contracts.
Over time, this would destroy the system of modern awards and enterprise agreements. Employees would have wages and conditions slashed. Employers would dictate the terms on which everyone was employed – with no negotiation.
This would be the same as the system operated by the many 7-Eleven franchisees which have exploited overseas workers. The only difference is that it would be legal.
OTHER items – ERODED
There are many other recommendations in the report which would be bad for workers.
Some of these include recommendations affecting shop trading hours, Individual Flexibility Arrangements between employers and employees, and protections for labour hire workers in enterprise agreements.
MAKE NO MISTAKE
Despite all the optimism that surrounded Malcolm Turnbull’s ascension to the Prime Ministership, it’s the same people pushing the agenda as it was when Tony Abbott was in charge.
This Government is ideologically committed to ‘deregulating’ workers’ rights.
In other words, they want you to be on your own, with a minimum of protections and entitlements.
The SDA will continue to fight for members’ rights, entitlements and protections as it has done for more than one hundred years.
The Federal Liberal Government is considering the report, and will decide which recommendations it will take to the next Federal Election.
We will keep members informed.