With buckets of money being poured into the PR campaign for the
government’s workplace reforms – and critics lining up to take a swipe
at the government’s new WorkChoice
Hotline – Crikey thought it’d be a good idea to see what we’re getting
for our money and give the hotline a call ourselves.

A subscriber with a contact inside the call centre yesterday wrote in
to Crikey, detailing how
hotline operators have only been given access to the colourful, but
not-so-informative, WorkChoices booklet and are watched like a hawk
by their supervisor so that they don’t deviate from the message.

Crikey called with a few queries about the changes to unfair dismissal
laws. We wanted to know: are there any provisions to make sure that the minimum wage
will rise in line with inflation? We were greeted by a phone operator, who
admittedly had a lovely phone manner, but was somewhat lacking in basic
knowledge about the IR reforms.

After exchanging pleasantries, Crikey asked whether, if we were to work
for a small business of, say 30 people, we would still be covered by
unfair dismissal laws. The operator thought about it, picked up on the
words “unfair dismissal” and went to something that resembled page 11 of the WorkChoices booklet.

“Would you like me to read you some information about that?”

Crikey: “Yeah, OK.”

It was an answer that could have been worked out by reading the booklet online.

We then
made a slightly more technical query about minimum wage and
inflation. Again the operator thought about it before proceeding to the Fair Pay Commission
section and asking us again if we’d like a reading from the book of
Andrews and Howard. It didn’t answer the question, so we asked again,
and she went to her supervisor while we were treated to some lovely
government muzak.

Operator: “I can’t actually answer that for you because it’s so specific.”
Crikey: “Is there anyone who can?”

The answer was “no” because, according to the operator, there is no
legislative detail to fall back on. Indeed. That’s why it’s so flummoxing that the government have set up a hotline and spent
so much on spinning their new reforms, when they haven’t even released
the detail.

Operator: “Thank you for your patience.”

“No worries.”

Alas, the poor operators seem to be trained to latch on to key words
like “minimum wage,” “unfair dismissal” or “Fair Pay Commission,” and
then search out the relevant section in the glossy 16-page information
booklet and read it aloud until the caller is duly satisfied or
frustrated enough to give up.

In the end, Crikey gave up, but not until we’d
wasted ten minutes we could have spent doing something more productive.