Here are some tips for those of you considering
ringing the WorkChoices hotline (choice in any policy context being of the
Hobsonian variety):

We are provided with scripted responses to equally
scripted questions, but thinking of a cunning question is not enough to get
through the barrier – that just gets you to the stock fallback response: “Your
question is very unique (free doughnut to the first respondent who sees a
grammatical problem there
). Many aspects of the legislation are still to be
finalised and it is not possible for us to provide a detailed response to your
question at this time. Please contact the Department of Workplace Relations on
www…. “

But we are required to record comments, including
if you feel our answers are incomplete/outright lies (in fact, they are mostly
half-lies, in keeping with this government’s excellent economic record… at
least as far as economy with the truth is concerned).

Asking about union right of entry to workplaces
will draw a blank, as will questions regarding breaches of agreements.
Questions about whether one’s workplace is a “constitutional corporation” are
good (the new legislation applies to “constitutional corporations”) for an
amusing answer.

Look also for responses that transpose “unfair dismissal” and “unlawful
dismissal.” If you ask about what protections there are against unfair dismissal, you will get a response about protections from “unlawful
dismissal,” despite the two being quite different (basically you have
full legal protection, as you always have, against the boss saying:
“Leroy! I’m firing your black a*se.” But if the boss says: “Leroy! I’m
firing your a*se!” you have no protection any more if your company has
100 employees or fewer.

Race/gender/disability discrimination is still bad. But your
boss being an a*sehole will become okay.

Since the legislation is all about making things
simpler, you could ask how it’s simpler that you now have to personally
negotiate your pay and conditions, whereas you used to just have an award. Or,
for that matter, you could ask whether the simplicity being introduced is
exemplified by the simple path by which you find out, for example, if you work
for a constitutional corporation.

Remember to ask about whether there is a guarantee
that you can go back to an award if you abandon one and change your mind. Oh,
and don’t forget to ask whether Federal politicians’ pay structures will be
reviewed in light of the changes – no journalist will.

The call centre is silent. Enough difficult
questions, if you insist on your comment/question being recorded, will become a
large proportion of the feedback. This might one day become public.

And more calls means I will keep my job a bit
longer, or at least until this email reaches my bosses.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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