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AWU officials and members take their battle to Queensland over the Federal Government’s plan to dismantle workers’ rights

February 11, 2021

The AWU contingent provided evidence at a Senate Inquiry in Townsville into the proposed overhaul of industrial relations legislation stating that the changes would hit pay, stifle industrial action, reduce job security, destroy workers bargaining rights and harm the economy.

Daniel Walton, National Secretary of the AWU, said: “The Federal Government has been wanting to water down workers’ rights for years and is using COVID as an opportunity to strike.

“They’re peddling the line that it will help the economy bounce back, when all it will do is line the pockets of big business, and do so at the expense of workers.

‘The average worker will bear the brunt of the proposed amendments. Workers will be stripped of current rights, lose bargaining power and significant protections around their terms and conditions at work. Those in insecure work and on the lowest wages and conditions will be the hardest hit.

“If we truly wanted to get the economy powering again we would be shoring up rights, increasing the security of work in Australia and ensuring that major projects in Australia use Australian products, workers and apprentices. To do the opposite is not only economic madness, it’s a despicable thing to do to hard working Australians, many of whom have suffered the year from hell.”

The AWU has laid out its opposition to the legislative overhaul in this submission.

The report states: “The employer lobby group in Australia consistently fails to recognise the benefits to the overall economy of improved conditions for low paid workers and instead focuses on cost savings for individual businesses. The Government is endorsing this simplistic and misguided approach in the Bill to the ultimate detriment of the Australian economy and all Australians.”

The proposed changes which are being examined by a Senate Committee and are due to be voted on by the Government in March include significant changes to enterprise bargaining that will allow businesses to avoid union scrutiny and allow some employers to deliver deals that provide terms and conditions that are worse than the national minimum safety net.

It will also further entrench the casualisation culture, water down the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) and allow businesses to apply greenfield agreements to the whole life of an infrastructure project – meaning that workers will not be able to renegotiate their terms and conditions mid project, which can be an important means to address key health and safety issues on a project.

An AWU member spoke at the hearing and warned that the changes would have a profound effect on the construction industry and that the greenfield changes in particular would likely lead to skilled workers leaving the sector, causing issues with health and safety and the quality of the infrastructure itself.

Mr Walton added: “The Government could have actually done something positive here to boost the economy such as instilling local content clauses in key manufacturing projects, or increase the number of apprentices that businesses must employ and train up.

“But there is literally nothing in this Bill that will support jobs. That’s why we have to stop this legislation from passing and alert all Australians to what the Government is trying to do.”

You can help the AWU fight the IR overhaul by joining your union today.

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