Still more
Steketee on AWAs:

Perhaps the
Government was caught off guard by how quickly employers took advantage of the
new legislation. But it could not have been surprised by what they did. Howard
never promised that no one would be worse off, because he could not credibly do
so. Rather, he argued that the move to AWAs would increase pay on average and
create more jobs. It was a line he maintained when the retail chain Spotlight
offered an employee 2c an hour extra in return for removing conditions worth
$90 a week. Howard pointed to the new outlet Spotlight opened in western Sydney where it
hired people who had been on the dole.

But Spotlight’s
plans for the new store were drawn up long before the legislation came into
force. Even if Howard can convince the unemployed they will have brighter
prospects under AWAs, there are many more in jobs who will feel threatened by
the potential loss of pay and conditions. They include low and middle-income
earners who are swinging voters and Howard battlers hard pressed by mortgage
payments and petrol prices. That the threat
is real is clear from the sample taken of 250 of the 6,263 AWAs lodged in the
first two months of the new legislation. All removed at least one award
condition and 16% took all of them away, apart from the core provisions
in the legislation…

Spotlight is a beautiful case study. Surely the Spotlight workers in New South Wales would give up their two cents an hour in
return for getting back penalty rates. And what about the Victorian staff who
got nothing because their rate was already $14.30 an hour, compared to the NSW $14.28?

These are
exactly the sort of issues voters will be focussing on at the next election if
Labor can keep up the attack. The Prime Minister’s line about Spotlight being able to open a new store is
easy to demolish. WorkChoices only came into force on March 27. The store would
have been planned much earlier.

Internal brawling over refugees, gay rights
and ethanol while the IR storm rages on. Suddenly the Government is looking ragged.

Peter Fray

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