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IR reforms to ‘suppress wages for years to come’

  • February 25 2021
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IR reforms to ‘suppress wages for years to come’

By Cameron Micallef
February 25 2021

Unions have hit out at the proposed industrial relations law, approved recently by the lower house, arguing it would leave workers worse off with cuts to take-home pay and conditions, few rights and less job security. 

wages

IR reforms to ‘suppress wages for years to come’

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  • February 25 2021
  • Share

Unions have hit out at the proposed industrial relations law, approved recently by the lower house, arguing it would leave workers worse off with cuts to take-home pay and conditions, few rights and less job security. 

wages

Despite the Morrison government claiming its omnibus rule changes do not facilitate pay cuts, the ACTU has issued a statement arguing the new bargaining agreement will shift power to big business, removing protections and making it harder for workers to negotiate better work and pay conditions.  

“Insecure work is going to hold the economy back in its recovery, and this bill will make it worse,” ACTU president Michele O’Neil said. 

“At the very time our country needs certainty and confidence, when small businesses are needing people to spend, this bill will enshrine insecurity and suppress wages for years to come,” she noted. 

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As the debate around the changes to industrial relations continues, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed Australia’s wage price index (WPI) remains at a record-low annual growth rate of 1.4 per cent. 

Michelle Marquardt, head of prices statistics at the ABS, said December quarter’s moderate growth was influenced by businesses rolling back short-term wage reductions, returning wages to pre-COVID levels. 

“The phased implementation of the Fair Work Commission annual wage review also had a small positive impact on wages.”

“In original terms, wages rose 0.5 per cent in December quarter 2020. Private sector wages rose 0.5 per cent, outpacing the public sector rise of 0.3 per cent. Wage freezes have had an impact on the public sector, which recorded its lowest annual increase (1.6 per cent) since the commencement of the series,” she said.

With wages clearly at a standstill, Ms O'Neil opined that changes to industrial relations law will only exasperate the issue.

Moreover, she argued, casual workers will be reduced with a new casual definition that will increase job insecurity and retrospectively take away the rights of misclassified workers to recover their entitlements. 

“The bill fails to address the systemic issue of insecure work in Australia. In fact, the bill will make it easier for employers to casualise permanent jobs. It makes permanent changes to bargaining, making it harder for workers to win pay rises,” Ms O’Neil said. 

Conversely, Attorney General Christian Porter has argued that the bill will end the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the legal status of casuals, while providing a clearer pathway for those working regular shifts to convert to permanent roles after 12 months, if they wish to do so. 

He also sees the bill as a win for businesses, with award simplications said to allow businesses to focus on growing and creating jobs, which, combined with non-legislative measures adopted during the COVID-19 JobKeeper flexibilities, will help support hard-hit industries.  

“These flexibilities, which have already helped to save thousands of jobs during the pandemic, will allow employers and employees to continue to work together regarding their duties and work location to navigate the challenges of working in a post-COVID world,” Mr Porter said.

The unions disputed this, saying “the bill will extend JobKeeper provisions without the payment of JobKeeper, giving employers the ability to direct workers to perform different duties and work at different locations, and removing current rights to have disputes resolved by the Fair Work Commission”.

“The bill must be opposed in its current form. Workers are now reliant on the senate crossbench to prevent this damaging attack on their rights from becoming law,” Ms O’Neil concluded. 

IR reforms to ‘suppress wages for years to come’
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About the author

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Cameron is a journalist for Momentum Media's nestegg and Smart Property Investment. He enjoys giving Aussies practical financial tips and tricks to help grow their wealth and achieve financial independence. As a self-confessed finance nerd, Cameron enjoys chatting with industry experts and commentators to leverage their insights to grow your portfolio.

About the author

author image
Cameron Micallef

Cameron is a journalist for Momentum Media's nestegg and Smart Property Investment. He enjoys giving Aussies practical financial tips and tricks to help grow their wealth and achieve financial independence. As a self-confessed finance nerd, Cameron enjoys chatting with industry experts and commentators to leverage their insights to grow your portfolio.

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