On the very day I’m leaving for 5 months I’m thinking about the Australian Governments Work Choices legislation and I’m wondering what type of country Australia is turning into. The changes that start this week will have a lasting effect on all Australians. Work Choices is about giving employers the choice of what conditions they offer you and in employers with less than 100 employees the right to terminate you without reason (i.e. being a whinger etc). It is not about choices to employees. The Age today had a story about an employer dismissing staff who were union members and who had previously been on strike (those members who resigned from the union are still working). The changes in the short term will see staff be sacked and in a lot of cases re-employed as a casual on a lot less money and/or reduced conditions. Conditions I know from family and friends already being reduced include penalty rates, travel allowances, meal allowances and overtime. Individuals have made long term financial decisions based on security on employment and their expected wage. There are already many people who are facing ruin. Why is the Government doing this, because they hate employees and unions, no (well they don’t like unions). They believe that by allowing employers to reduce costs that the employers might employ more staff. In the long term this means that there would be less unemployed the Government has to support which ultimately means more money in the Government budget for tax cuts or investment in infrastructure.
One possible problem with this plan as it appears to think employers will do the right thing by employees and exist for this purpose. But law corporations exist to increase the value and returns to the investors, nothing else. This gamble might work; I can’t be sure however it is only a theory and has never been proven. While the Government takes this gamble for the possible long term good a sizeable part of the workplace definitely suffer now. The chance to see your children on the weekend will be reduced and you won’t get the benefit of getting extra money. A best this gamble might help some Australians (especially business owners) but those earning less than $45,000 a year or working for an employer with less than 100 employees are in for a very rough ride. Again the engine room of Australia is being asked to take the most pain for the select few.
As the award system is dismantled and more and more employers can offer less for more work the real cost will be felt. Having said this JohnHoward’s middle Australia will only start feeling the effects when current workplace agreements are reviewed over the next 3 years, happily after the next election for the Liberal Government. The election calculation is the young and the lower paid who will get hurt first don’t vote from them anyway, those who benefit do. It’s important that even those who think they might be protected (like me) say and do something now.
We are all Australians and we need to support each other away from the sporting field.