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Ten things people working in health need to know about new work laws

21 October 2005
Herald Sun Newspaper October 15, 2005
Herald Sun Newspaper October 15, 2005

There are some vital facts that people working in healthcare should know about the government's new work laws.

1. Penalty Rates, Overtime and Public Holiday Pay.

It has now been confirmed these entitlements will not be protected.

Any new wage agreements will only have to match five basic minimum conditions and not the relevant industry award as is the case now.

Things that are not included among those conditions include penalty rates and allowances, casual loadings, meal breaks and public holiday rates.

Those things will be up for grabs. Strong union workplaces with good bargaining power will be the least affected.

2. Wages.

People who are on award wages will no longer get a guaranteed annual pay rise.

Instead of the Industrial Relations Commission having the power to set wages a new body, the so-called Fair Pay Commission, will decide whether the 1.6 million workers on awards will get a pay rise and how much it will be.

If you are covered by an enterprise agreement now the union will still be able to negotiate new wage agreements but employers will be more likely to try and trade away conditions in return for a pay increase.

3. Job Security.

There will be no protection from unfair dismissal for anybody who works in a business with less than 100 permanent and long term casual staffmembers.

That means you can be sacked for no reason and not be able to do anything about it.

The latest news is that even if you work for a bigger firm you will not be able to claim unfair dismissal if you have been at work less than six months or are made redundant.

4. Right of Entry.

The government is trying to make it harder for unions to visit members at work.

They want to stop representatives checking the records of everybody at a workplace whether they are a member or not to ensure workers are getting a fair deal. Employers will be able to say where a meeting between a member and a union representative takes place.

5. State IR systems.

The Federal Government wants NSW, WA, Tasmania, Queensland and South Australia to get rid of their IR systems which balance the interest of workers and employers.

The State Governments are resisting but only a minority of workers will be able to stay in the state system.

6. Independent Umpire.

After more than 100 years of proud service, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, will have its role to set wages and resolve disputes cut back.

The independent umpire will no longer scrutinise wage agreements to see if they are fair or set award wages. It's main role will be to make sure unions don't do anything wrong during wage negotiations.

7. Individual Contracts.

The new laws will make it much more attractive for employers to try and put their staff on individual contracts (Australian Workplace Agreements).

These AWA's can reduce your wages and conditions over time and still be legal. It will also be legal to make it a condition of taking a job or getting a pay rise to sign an AWA.

These agreements can be offered at any time regardless of what your current wage agreement is. The HSU is concerned federal funding for health and aged care may only be given if employers offer AWAs to staff. That is the situation in higher education at the moment.

8. Fairness at Work.

Under the new system employers can pay new staff less and provide them with less entitlements. That will make it more attractive to get rid of current staff so new ones can be brought in.

9. Work Choices.

The Government's new laws are called WorkChoices. How much choice is there in the fact you can be refused a job or a pay rise if you don't sign an AWA and sacked for no reason if you work for a small employer?

10. Government Guarantee.

The Prime Minister John Howard and the Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews still refuse to give a guarantee that no workers will be worse off after the laws change.

It's pretty obvious they know there will be a lot of working Australians who will suffer as a result of the changes.

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