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Daily Archives: April 27th, 2009

Sunday, 26 April 2009

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Hundreds of thousands of Australian workers need an exit strategy from WorkChoices agreements that have locked them into sub-standard pay and conditions for years to come, say unions.

The ACTU has declared that the abolition of Australian Workplace Agreements and other WorkChoices instruments that rip-off employees is a major piece of unfinished business for the Labor Government.

In a major example identified by unions, workers employed on AWAs or Interim Transitional Employment Agreements at Austral Bricks’ Summer Hill plant in Victoria are almost $7500 a year worse off than those employed under the company enterprise agreement.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said many of these agreements would fail to pass the new Better Off Overall Test under the Labor Government’s new Fair Work Act.

“These AWAs and non-union agreements are the remnants of WorkChoices,” Ms Burrow said.

“They disadvantage employees, but they are also unfair to competing businesses that have done the right thing and negotiated collective agreements with their workers.

“There needs to be a mechanism to allow these workers to opt out of these contracts and return to coverage by the modern award safety net or a collective agreement.”

Ms Burrow said the situation at Austral Bricks highlighted how AWAs had also been used to undermine collectively bargained pay and conditions, and create a two-tiered workforce.

The AWAs and their temporary successors, ITEAs, were introduced into the company in the last two years under the WorkChoices IR laws. Signing them was made a condition of employment.

A comparison prepared by the CFMEU reveals that an extruder operator on an AWA would earn $1225.38 a week, while an employee on the enterprise agreement would earn $1369.19 for the same number of hours. Over a year, this is a difference of $7478.12 as a result of a lower hourly rate and no penalty rates under the AWA.

“Despite a clear desire from these employees to revert to the union-negotiated collective agreement, Austral Bricks has refused to allow these AWAs or ITEAs to be withdrawn.

“To totally remove the legacy of Howard’s WorkChoices from the IR landscape, there must be legislation to help these workers and others return to collective bargaining.

“There are around 520,000 people still on AWAs or non-union contracts left over from WorkChoices. The common thread to these WorkChoices contracts is that they were used to take away conditions and entitlements such as overtime rates, weekend and night penalty rates, casual loadings and redundancy pay.

“Thousands of workers will be stuck on lower pay, conditions and rights for several more years unless the Rudd Government brings these job contracts into line with its new IR laws,” said Ms Burrow.

http://www.actu.asn.au/Media/Mediareleases/WorkersstuckonWorkChoicesjobcontractsare7500ayearworseoffcallforGovttoact.aspx

Economy worries grow after flu outbreak

Chris Zappone
April 28, 2009 – 9:20AM

A swine flu outbreak in North America could spell more trouble for the stricken global economy if it continues to spread, analysts said.

The deadly flu, which originates in pigs but can be transmitted from person to person, has killed 20 people in Mexico, according to reports. It has raised the prospect of creating another test for businesses and consumers already grappling with the financial crisis.

National Australia Bank international economist Mark Rodrigues said the swine flu ”could have a negative impact on the global economic scene,” although he cautioned, ”we’re not at that stage yet.”

In addition to the cases in Mexico, where as many as 80 deaths may have resulted, cases have been confirmed in the US, New Zealand and Canada.

”If it does become bigger and impacts not just on regional but global confidence,” Mr Rodrigues said, the flu ”can spur another bout of risk aversion…and can have broader implications through a range of assets classes.”

The International Monetary Fund downgraded its estimate of global growth last week, forecasting a 1.3% drop in 2009, from 0.5% growth it had expected in January.

Mr Rodrigues said pandemics, such as swine flu or SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) create ”multiple effects” that flow through the economy.

In addition to slowing demand for travel and tourism, outbreaks can deter economic activity in the countries most affected, as people are deterred from spending time in crowded commercial areas.

”If it’s serious enough it can impair the normal functioning of the economic system.”

Qantas ready

The SARS scare in 2002 and 2003 forced airlines, particularly those servicing the Asia Pacific region, to cut flights as customers avoided unnecessary travel for fear of contracting the illness.

Qantas laid off more than 1000 staff in 2003 in response to the slowdown triggered by the outbreak of SARS.

A spokesman for Qantas the airline had encountered no cases of the illness and said there are ”no specific changes to travel arrangements.”

”We have standard produces in place and regularly review them,” he said.

Qantas is working with Australian and international authorities to monitor the situation, the spokesman said.

Like SARS

Swine flu “could have a pretty serious impact if it was to stick around for a long time and spread,” said JP Morgan economist Helen Kevans.

“Should cases of swine flu crop up in Asia like SARS did in 2002-2003,” Ms Kevans said, it could begin to weigh on those currencies.

There have been no confirmed cases in Asia so far.

From an economic perspective, ”it could well be a storm in a tea cup,” she said. ”We’re waiting for further clues.”

X-Factor

Swine flu is the newest ”x-factor in the world of risk” said RBC Capital Markets Sue Trinh.

Panicky investors are hitting the sell-button on currencies wherever they see the new uncertainty.

The New Zealand dollar bought 56.68 US cents, down from 57.21 US cents on Friday, after the nation said ten students were ”highly likely” to have caught the infection after visiting Mexico.

Traders are waiting ”to see if it spreads” and ”becomes more of a pandemic,” Ms Trinh said.

”Right now it looks like it’s well contained,” she said.

czappone@fairfax.com.au

http://business.theage.com.au/business/economy-worries-grow-after-flu-outbreak-20090427-ajq9.html

27 April 2009 8:36am

Poor redundancy strategies are leaving employers vulnerable to having their top talent poached by their competitors, according to human capital firm Chandler Macleod Group.

Poaching is particularly prevalent among professional services, banking and finance, engineering and mining employers, says CMG’s executive general manager of professional and executive recruitment, Peter Gleeson.

Recent candidate research shows that a “startling” 76 per cent of workers whose employers have made redundancies plan to move jobs within six months, he says.

The instability resulting from restructuring means stronger employers will take advantage of this situation, “and it’s crucial that businesses get on the front foot in order to secure their core talent pools”.

Gleeson notes that “unfortunately, at a time when all employees are looking for guidance, many organisations lack the necessary leadership skills to navigate their business through a severe economic downturn. In the 1990s recession, many of today’s leaders were themselves workers or in middle management and did not gain hands-on experience in restructuring and evolving their workforces.

“Management styles needs to be significantly altered in negative times and some are only now realising that they are ‘recession novices’.”

Protect core talent
David Reynolds, executive general manager of Chandler Macleod Consulting, says employers should do the following to retain their pivotal talent:
Communicate openly during and after redundancies. “Communication, support, understanding and empathy are essential when redundancies have been made. Remaining employees want to know that colleagues who have lost their jobs are being well supported with counselling and outplacement services. They also want to understand how the flow-on affect will impact their workload and how they will be supported.

“The important thing is to be open and honest and to not make promises which cannot be kept. However, remaining employees should understand that they are seen as key people within the organisation who will be able to take the business through this challenging period.”

Develop a core nucleus of people supplemented with contract or temporary labour. Supplementary labour will help ensure the team of pivotal talent is not burnt out.

Set mutually agreed KPIs. “Leaders need to explain the revised strategy to employees so they understand their roles will need to change as a result of the reduced headcount. Also, [employees] need to understand what’s most important in their day-to-day roles to make a difference to the organisation while being aware of the upskilling and reward they will be given for taking on additional work.

“One of the most important things to put in place is rigid parameters on what’s expected from each employee by setting mutually agreed KPIs and rewards.”

Understand the resilience and stress levels of each employee. The best leaders, Reynolds says, “are the ones that take the time to understand what’s going on with their people and have empathy and understanding. It’s essential to openly communicate with individuals to understand their resilience, as well as the stress impact they are facing at work and home.

“Bottom line is you can’t avoid stress and overloading work in this market. However, it’s how you deal with and accommodate it, and how you treat each person. At all times, leaders need to show respect and continue to recognise and reward employees emotionally or financially. Remember, creating a strong business is a team issue.”

http://www.hrdaily.com.au/nl06_news_selected.php?act=2&nav=1&selkey=1137&utm_source=daily+email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily+Email+Article+Link

27 April 2009 8:53am

Employers that underestimate the proficiency of trade unions and neglect to do their homework in the lead up to enterprise-agreement negotiations are unlikely to “exert control” at the bargaining table, says Deacons partner Martin Osborne.

“Despite popular perception unions are generally very well organised,” Osborne told HR Daily.

“They often come across as dishevelled or disorganised,” he says, “but are more switched on than a lot of employers.”

Osborne says that unions tend to approach the bargaining table equipped with a number of well-developed and comprehensive bargaining strategies and contingency plans, while many employers enter the first round of meetings unprepared – and start planning from there.

They should start planning up to a year in advance, he says.

A failure to do so, according to a recent Deacons report, may result in a “commercially undesirable bargain”, and can lead to:

disruptive and costly industrial action;

substantial and unfeasible wage increases;

operational inflexibility and restrictions on implementing change;

an ongoing and destructive “us and them” workplace culture; and

the erosion of the employer’s status in future bargaining rounds.
Examining previous agreements
Osborne says that employers should start by examining the process and results of previous negotiations.

Bargaining is a bit like “groundhog day”, he says. The majority of issues are the same every time.

Employers must determine what worked – and what didn’t – in the previous agreement, and cost alternative scenarios. They should establish a set of goals and ensure that their bargaining objectives can enable improvements in business outcomes.

“Employers don’t want cost-neutral developments,” he says. “They don’t want to go backwards from the last deal.”

Employers should also review “met commitments”, Osborne says. “Sticking points” in the bargaining process often go unresolved, he says, and stakeholders can end up making commitments they can’t live up to.

A failure to meet a commitment from the previous agreement might need to be explained and defended, he says. If the failure is on the part of another stakeholder, it can be used as a bargaining chip.

Research key
According to Osborne, employers must also prepare for the bargaining process by researching:
internal demographics to determine future costs relating to maternity leave, the ageing workforce and other factors;

other industries, to see what competitors are doing; and

the political environment, especially where organisations are dependent on government work, or vulnerable to the effects of legislation.
Employers would also be prudent to examine union and employee “drivers”, Osborne says.

“Different unions have different drivers and approaches to enterprise bargaining,” he says.

Unions are “not always driving worker imperatives”, he says, and have different “commercial drivers” to business.

“Bargaining can be difficult if you don’t know where [unions are] coming from.”

Industrial-action contingency plan
An industrial-action contingency plan can help “keep the wheels turning” should negotiations stall, Osborne says.

In the months leading up to a new bargaining round employers could consider increasing production – where possible – or explore alternative labour options to prepare for a possible strike.

They should seek advice to determine their legal options – such as the right to seek orders to halt industrial action – and use surveillance to document illegal activity should things get out of control.

http://www.hrdaily.com.au/nl06_news_selected.php?act=2&nav=1&selkey=1136&utm_source=daily+email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily+Email+Article+Link

By Des Houghton
The Daily Telegraph
April 27, 2009 07:43am

THE Ten network will axe The Simpsons and replace it with more news, extending the one-hour 5pm bulletin to 90 minutes.

Insiders confirmed the financially troubled network says it can no longer pay the fee of $25,000 for each episode of the top-rating social satire.

Ten says dropping The Simpsons would save it $6 million a year.

By extending the news, Ten hopes to steal audience from the Seven and Nine networks in the crucial 6pm timeslot.

Will you be sad to see The Simpsons go? Tell us below.

The high-risk strategy is being plotted in Sydney by Ten’s national news supremo Cathy Schnitzerling.

Secret pilot shows have been filmed in most state capitals.

It is understood the new show will borrow from the Sky News format with a chatty presentation heavy on sport and with regular headline updates.

Key reporters will offer provocative commentaries on news and current affairs.

http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/story/0,28383,25391269-10229,00.html?referrer=email&source=eDM_newspulse