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WorkChoices creates fear

10 August 2007

A RMIT University Report finds that WorkChoices creates fear of summary dismissal or a cut in wages and conditions for Victorian Workers.

The report, Going too far: WorkChoices & the Experience of 30 Victorian Workers in Minimum Wage Sectors - by Sara Charlesworth and Fiona Macdonald of RMIT University - was based on interviews with 24 women and six men - mostly from the retail, aged care and hospitality sectors, and nearly half aged over 45 - who had been affected by Work Choices.

About 70% of the interviewees were permanent employees; 40% were on awards, 20% on common law individual contracts, 13% on collective agreements, 7% on AWAs, and 20% didn't know.

The report said 12 of the 30 interviewees had been dismissed without warning and another four had been effectively constructively dismissed. Two (both part-timers) said last year's AFPC pay rise was effectively absorbed by a cut in hours.

"The loss of unfair dismissal protection. . . in workplaces with 100 or fewer employees. . . also removes the effects of permanency for those workers who are not casual or fixed term (21 of the 30 interviewees)," the executive summary of the report said.

"This in turn works to mute the 'voices' of workers in querying wage rates and entitlements and in speaking out about issues such as occupational health and safety. It affects HR practices and procedures for example in performance management, in managing disputes between workers, in the giving of first and second warnings, and even in the provision of reasons for termination."

Some of the interviewees also reported a sense of loss of power, reduced job satisfaction, lower self-esteem, more limited access to unions and negative health effects as a result of the changes at their workplace.

"In a number of cases employers had introduced individual contracts with no negotiation with employees, which removed penalty rates with no compensation. In some of these cases, interviewees who tried to negotiate around new contractual arrangements were penalised or dismissed," the report said.

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To download a copy of the report, click here [ pdf ]

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