Sunday, April 02, 2006

AWA? No fuckin' way!


Kevin Andrews,
Federal
Minister for Industrial Relations
(see below for another side of Big Kev)

So things are getting worse at Slavers, the shop I work for.
They've introduced Australian Workplace Agreements
to the business.
Curiously enough, management are not requested to sign AWA contracts.
Why is this?
And what is an Australian Workplace Agreement, anyway?
Australia's archly conservative Prime Minister, John Howard, hates Unions and has being doing his best to undermine them for the whole ten years he has been this nation's fearless leader.
Since his latest re-election victory in which his party gained control of the lower house and the Senate, he feels he has a stronger mandate for fucking over the country in favour of big business even more than he has had in the past.
Australian Workplace Agreements are the icing on the cake of his efforts to diminish the power of unions in Australia (he will never destroy them).
Let's backtrack a little.
Enterprise Bargain Agreements were introduced in the nineties through Peter Reith, then Minister for Industrial Relations. These sought to do away with Union Award Wages and the rhetoric that surrounded the implementation of EBA's, as I recall, was concerned with 'empowering' employees to work with their employers to derive reasonable wages and conditions for their employment. This was a completely transparent effort to sideline unions and empower employers at the expense of employees of course, but it was not all that effective in its aims, although it was not without its successes either.
Well, AWA's go up to eleven in this respect. AWA's give employers even more power and potentially alienate employees from each other even more by individualising their working conditions.
I am going to use Slavers as a casestudy to elaborate on this.
We were given a pep talk and a come on from the Slavers Area Manager who
manages the whole of Slavers Australia - or so she and the business thinks...
Throughout this didactic display of rhetoric and lies, she said that the Union concerns in regard to AWA's were overblown and that AWA's actually work in the favour of employees. And here's why:
AWA's provide a lot more flexibility for employers and employees because, now, the 38 hours a week full time requirement becomes 76 hours per fortnight.
This means that an employer can potentially ask an employee to work 30 hours this week and 46 hours next week. It gets worse, however.
The employer can ask to change your roster and only give you 24 hours warning (for which you can read: any time during the day before).
Now, this means that if I
consistently say, "No," to an employer when they ask to change my roster, they have every right to say that I am not being a good employee for them and can therefore sack me. Naturally this point wasn't mentioned during the speech.
The other point that wasn't really elaborated on was that an AWA is a three year contract.
There is nothing to stop Slavers from deciding that they do not want to renew a contract after three years. NOTHING.
To sweeten the deal (which is a particularly sour one), employees who 'voluntarily' sign up for an AWA earn a whole $1 more per hour than employees on the current Shops Storage Award, retain the 15 minute breaks that SSA employees will now only get 10 minutes for and will have their birthdays as paid rostered days off, unlike the SSA employees.
Sorry Slavers, but you're going to have to pour me a lot more sugar before I switch to your oppressive contract.
New employees do not have a choice as to which agreement they sign up for. All
new employees have to sign an AWA.
So much for choice and equality.
Now, whose interests does this new agreement really serve?
But the thing I really can't comprehend is why about half the employees at Slavers want to be fucked over by Slavers and John Howard and (more importantly) one of these employees is a union rep.
We are living in strange times.
But not as strange as the picture of Kevin Andrews that I found when I typed his name into Google Image.


Admittedly, this is a picture from England.
It may not be this nation's Federal Industrial Relations Minister.
But then again, the likeness is uncanny...

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