Modia Minotaur

Trawling the airwaves to spare you the agony!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Welcome to the Brave New WorkChoices World

Well, here it is folks - the day we've all been dreading. The Federal Government's WorkChoices laws come into force today, though not without the threat of a High Court challenge from all Labor-held states presenting a genuine threat to the long term life of the laws, as Finance Minister Nick Minchin himself has admitted. Thus ends a system of industrial relations that held good for a century - for which people rallied, fought and died. Apparently, it was all in vain.

Reports suggesting that the ACTU's Greg Combet has complained about Federal Labor's concentration on the AWB at the expense of industrial relations are, frankly, wrong, as his Insiders interview from yesterday shows. It's quite obvious that when Parliament resumes, Labor will begin asking questions on IR, but also important to keep up the heat on AWB.

Meanwhile, ABC's Inside Business has also picked up on the shared disdain between unions and the right-wing union busting HR Nicholls Society on the new laws.

Today's AM also reports that an ACTU poll of 24 marginal seats showed some interesting results. 2/3rds of people opposed the laws, meaning there must be potential for real electoral impact down the line.

The government is heavily pushing the line that `the sky will not fall today' as a result of WorkChoices, but for some, the impact will be immediate. I know of some workplaces where employers have been holding off negotiating new EBAs until the new laws come into force, a position Australian Business Ltd-backed advocacy group Employers First (aka Workers Last) has been openly endorsing. There is no doubt that many small businessmen - even the most honourable - will be tempted to dip into the nasty bag of tricks the government has now presented them. As Greg Combet put it on the weekend, these eggs will be hard to unscramble.

More coverage, including opinion pieces by both Kim Beazley and John Howard, as well as Greg Combet and Peter Hendy, at the Sydney Morning Herald.


At 10:16 am, Anonymous weez said...

MM, how many companies with 101 employees will have 99 by the end of today? I reckon it'll be more than a few.

At 4:55 pm, Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Weez, I know of a large Australian company that is said to have rearranged its interstate offices in such a way that they operate independently and all have fewer than 100 employees. Considered nationally, the company has many more than 100. This happened months ago.

Of course, this may be only a rumour only, and if so it is telling that I heard it from an employee of the company in question. The stick is there to be used, but it can also be used to frighten.

At 4:05 pm, Blogger Minotaur said...

Kevin Andrews said today that there are `provisions that stop companies from restructuring to avoid unfair dismissal laws', but I can't see how they could possibly be applied. Companies restructure for all sorts of reasons, it's just too easy to get around, in the same way that someone's not going to fire you by saying `You're fat, ugly, pregnant and Asian - you're sacked.'

Your point about the stick being there to hang above peoples' heads rather than to whack them is a good one. Even before the laws came in, I had a very hard time as a workplace organiser, just convincing people that the employer could not discriminate against them for joining the union and so forth.

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