Skip navigation

Tag Archives: Jeff Lawrence

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Printable Version | Email a Friend

Today’s decision by the soon-to-be-scrapped ‘Fair Pay Commission’ is another kick in the guts for working Australians from the Liberals’ WorkChoices, say unions.

More than 1.3 million Australians that rely on minimum award wages, including many low paid young workers, women and migrant workers will suffer.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said the Fair Pay Commission had shown no respect for the contribution low paid workers are making to the economy during the downturn and had relied on discredited and flawed research.

“The Fair Pay Commission has saved its worst for last,” Mr Lawrence said.

“The decision means ordinary working Australians and their families are bearing the brunt of an economic downturn they did not cause.

“Many workers have already lost their jobs, had their hours cut and now more than a million families are facing a pay freeze despite rising living costs.

“Only a week after new IR laws came into operation, WorkChoices is back from the dead.

“Working families are again the victims of the unfair wage-setting system established by the previous Liberal Government.

“The real wages of low paid workers have gone backwards since the Commission was established, and today’s decision is another attack on their living standards.

“The costs of rent, food, medicines, education and utilities have all risen in the past year and families need a pay rise to keep up.”

Mr Lawrence said the decision was unwise in the current economic circumstances and rejected the argument that a pay freeze for the low paid is good for the economy.

“A pay freeze will sap consumer demand and undermine confidence. Any green shoots of economic recovery will be nipped in the bud by this unfair and unwise decision.

“It will be felt not only in the homes of Australia’s 1.3 million minimum wage workers, but in the shops and businesses in every main street of every Australian town and suburb.”

Mr Lawrence said the decision runs counter to the economic stimulus strategy, ignores the Federal Government’s submission in favour of maintaining real wages, and even ignores the views of some business groups who supported a modest wage rise.

“There is no credible evidence that modest rises in minimum wages have a negative effect on jobs. This is a furphy put about by the same free market fundamentalists that brought us deregulation and who contributed to the GFC.

“We look to Fair Work Australia’s new wage-setting body to provide a fairer and more rigorous approach.”

Ben Schneiders
June 30, 2009

UNIONS expect a new era in industrial relations and a more conciliatory relationship with employers from tomorrow as they seek to take advantage of new laws that finally consign WorkChoices to history.

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said yesterday unions would seek to “strategically” take advantage of Labor’s Fair Work laws and the improved bargaining rights and protections provided to workers.

He said it was a good day for workers and unions would “exploit” the laws to the maximum.

Their introduction follows a long union-led campaign against WorkChoices that was regarded as an important factor in the election of the Rudd Government.

Mr Lawrence said unions would test important elements of the new laws such as the requirement that parties bargain in good faith.

Companies such as Cochlear, which he said had sought to bypass unions in talks, would be targeted.

Mr Lawrence said the ability of unions to grow would depend on how well they targeted particular industries and employers using the new laws. “New industrial legislation doesn’t mean unions automatically grow.”

Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry workplace relations head Alex Marriott said smaller businesses were likely to face the biggest challenges from the new laws.

She said the reintroduction of unfair dismissal laws for businesses with fewer than 100 staff would add to pressures and costs for business.

A recent poll conducted for the VECCI found that 70 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposition that “small business employers need the ability to sack workers who are not pulling their weight”.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union national secretary John Sutton said the new laws were a step forward in some areas but kept some of the restrictions on unions and bargaining from WorkChoices.

“The Fair Work Act and other pieces of industrial legislation fall short of the trade union movement’s legitimate expectations,” he said.

A government-funded program has offered $12.9 million to employer groups and unions to educate their members about the new laws. Most of the money is allocated to business groups, with about $2.5 million going to the ACTU.