While workplaces
around Australia contemplate what the Howard Government’s industrial
relations changes might mean for them, the publisher of The West Australian
has taken the bull by the horns by signing some of its journalists to
individual contracts that force them to trade in two weeks of their
annual leave.

“WAN
may, at its absolute discretion, pay out up to ten days of your annual
leave entitlement each year,” says the Australian Workplace Agreement,
quoted today in The Australianhere,
contradicting assurances from Howard and employer groups that cashing
out holidays would be voluntary. Interestingly, the move comes on the
back of some solid lobbying by The West on behalf of the
workplace changes, including pieces praising the Howard Government’s IR
strategy in both its opinion pages and editorials.

“What cannot
be in doubt is that the time has come to carry Australia’s industrial
relations system forward in some significant steps,” wrote Tony
Rutherford in The West’s opinion pages on 8 June. “Unions also
prefer to avert their gaze from the realities of Australia’s economy
where the master-servant wage relationship is rapidly giving way to
self-employment and sub-contracting and productivity growth improves as
awards wither away.”

An editorial on 2 June argued that WA
should maintain the right to manage its own workforce but “the state
industrial system should be given at least some of the powers of Mr
Howard’s unitary system.” And for those journalists contemplating
industrial action it also points out that: “Where militant unions still
have a hold, their leaders continue to wield power way beyond their
level of representation… Theirs is a destructive influence on the
state’s economy and must be reined in.”

What are the chances of an objective editorial about the IR changes in the The West any time soon?

Peter Fray

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