Saturday, May 28, 2005

Comment:The Cliché Mafia attack Australian workplace reform

“The only thing he’s trying to do is give more profits to big business at the expense of workers in Australia.”

This is the sort of remark that typifies the predictable reaction of Australian trade unions, to long overdue workplace reform proposed by the Howard government. All very nice and Jarrow March-esque, but uninformed.

Another carried a banner saying, "My dad fought in Vietnam." (sorry, but what the hell has that to do with workplace reform in 2005?)

Under the changes, it will become easier to sack workers; businesses with up to 100 employees will be exempt from unfair dismissal laws; minimum wages will be set by a new Fair Pay Commission; and minimum conditions for all workers will be set in law.

Awards will also be simplified, removing provision for long-service leave, superannuation, termination notice and jury duty. Probation periods for new employees will increase from three months to six.

Under present workplace legislation, only companies with fewer than 20 employees are exempt from time consuming and costly unfair dismissal claims. It can take up to three years to settle such a claim and cost a company thousands of dollars.

Under the new proposals, this number is increased to 100. Hardly what I would call, "big business."

Also under "threat" is the ludicrous system of leave-loading. Put simply, leave loading is when you take holidays, you are paid regular wages plus 17% extra loading. The Australian Council Of Trade Unions explain leave loading as, "A pay bonus when on recreation leave based on the theory that workers are entitled to extra money because when they are on holidays and they won't be paid extra for working overtime."

In small business you manage and limit risk and many small business owners are reluctant to take on new workers. Hiring staff is a costly business, and dismissing unsuitable workers, an expensive and stressful exercise.

Yes, some employers are bastards, but most employers now realise staff are an important asset. Like any vital asset, you look after them. Employers will not start firing staff willy nilly, but they will have the freedom to remove those who play the system.

Small business owners I have talked to are already saying that if the cost and risk of employing additional staff is reduced, they will consider expansion. That means more jobs - not less. Many companies may also reconsider plans to outsource.

The new proposals are not about taking away the rights of the workers. They give a few more to those who pay their wages