The USS Quad Damage

Don't blame me, I voted for the other guy

I know this is a lot; in fact it’s possibly the biggest post on here so far (?) But I figure there might be at least one person interested in reading this, considering he somewhat dislikes conservative governments (or at least ranks them lower down on the list). The rest of you – read it only if you REALLY want to know about your future working life.

I am pissed off. Big time.

John Howard is going to ruin our every day working lives which will have a HUGE impact on our family lives, and no-one has a clue of just how much his Industrial Relations agenda will affect them.

Because Australians voted John Howard and his Liberal cronies in the upper house in with a clear majority, he has an opportunity to f*ck us all over big time. And mind you, they only got such a big win from the election because of an election campaign based on lies of how they (the Libs) will keep interest rates low and Labor (ALP) will make them high (Australians are now very money-driven!).

The only CONTROL the government has over the RBA in setting interest rates is how they conduct the economy (to the best of their ability) and their own spending and whether they can keep inflation under control through other means. My bet: Our economy will probably go into recession in the near future anyway.

John Howard blames Unions and Australian Workers because of an increase lately in average wage increases causing increasing inflation. This is utter Bullshit. I think I read somewhere recently that the fluctuating petrol prices have more of an impact on inflation than average workers wage increases. And anyway, the only reason that the average wage increases that Unions get for workers has gone up recently, is because of our really low unemployment and skills shortages.

Many Employers now can’t attract good workers in a lot of industries and therefore have no choice but to strike decent employment conditions for their workers and hopefully attract more applicants and higher skilled staff. I know this works for a fact (as you know, I work in a Union). We have Enterprise Agreements for different places that we’ve done deals for over the past couple of years because they have been struggling because of nurse shortages. Certain places now have really good extra benefits for working there, and their employment rate and retention rates have increased significantly.

Back to the economy: in case you didn’t already realise it, the amount of money spent and the amount of money that the Liberals promised to spend was five times what Labor was talking about (in this case, Labor was much more conservative in their election promises (probably too conservative and not aggressive enough) - and in my humble opinion interest rates COULD even possibly be lower than they are now – I think the Liberals spending spree on useless elitist based things have had an impact on the economy already – perhaps even put us into a spiral of inevitable recession). But I’m not much of an economist, so take that into consideration when you criticise what I just said.

Now, to the real reason why I wrote this:

Anyone who reads this: Surely you have some sort of hope/goal/wish to some day buy a house or commit to a large loan of some sort. Well, you better re-think your hopes and dreams, because you won't have any job security to back yourself with to get any long-term loans.

AWAs (Australian Workplace Agreements) will become the standard way of life for Australian Workers. And John Howard and Peter Reith will be coming in their pants every second of the day because of it. (Got a nasty picture in your mind of them? Good!) AWAs are evil. John Howard and Peter Reith are evil – evidence following.

Explanation of AWAs: They are individual contracts. They remove the collective bargaining power that workers currently have under Awards. Sometimes they’re made up and are quite tempting to begin with – you might even get paid more. But you will lose your entitlements over time, and you will be much worse off.

AWAs mean it is YOU vs THE EMPLOYER. No-one can effectively bargain on your behalf. Put it this way – it’s thousands of your colleagues collectively standing up to your employer on your behalf, versus you by yourself, up against your employer, their lawyers etc.

You will have almost no protection or job security with an AWA. If you’re not doing your job properly (or the way your employer expected you to do it), rather than re-training you, you could be sacked straight away with no protected entitlements. In this situation, you would have no right under unfair dismissal legislation.

Let’s say an employer offers you an AWA, and it’s $5000 per year more than what you’re getting now. You think HEY, more money, I could use that. Hidden conditions: No overtime, lunch breaks or anything etc. You’ve got a job to do, it’s in the contract. Too bad if you work 80 hours a week trying to do it (forfeiting thousands and thousands of dollars worth of overtime). Too bad about your son’s birthday which you could probably otherwise get out working under reasonable overtime provisions. Too bad about your brother’s funeral – there’s no bereavement leave conditions either.

Now, let’s say under the Award you would’ve been earning $50,000 per year. Your Union has just negotiated a deal for your Award providing a 3 % per year pay increases (very conservative) for the next 3 years. Award rate = approx $55,000 pa. You’re now equal in monetary terms, but you’ve lost a whole bunch of entitlements. (Currently, AWAs last for 3 years, Howard wants to change it to 5 years).

Now, you’re employer says, hey, you’ve done a great job, we want to Re-Hire you – yes, re-hire you – there’s no guarantee you’ll still have your job after 3 years, you’re contract can be cancelled very easily when it runs out (ever heard of a 3 year mortgage – because that’s all you’d confidently be able to commit to). We’re willing to give you a very generous 10% increase in pay, but only if you give up your Annual Leave entitlements – but don’t worry, you’ll still have weekends. TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT – you will never get this back. (Oh, and sorry to hear about the divorce you went through because you weren’t spending enough time with your family).

Again, the award would be behind to begin with (you’d probably catch up over the years), but you’d still get the entitlements and protection of it. And that bit about the weekends – good luck! You’ve got a job to do, no matter how much time it takes.

You WON’T have a choice in the future of whether you want to sign an AWA or not. It will be a “take it or leave it� option.

I’ll admit though, that yes, some employers will be good about this. Even if they do ask you to sign AWAs they will probably keep you under fairly okay conditions (still not as good as the benefits of an Award though). AWAs provide an excellent opportunity for bad employers to be bad – and there are plenty of them out there – we deal with them every day. Many stockholder driven companies are good examples. They will rip their employees to shreds to increase their stock market value.

Over the past 100 years, Australian Unions have worked DAMN HARD to get you entitlements that you otherwise wouldn’t have received. We’ve (I should say YOU’VE because Unions ARE the workers; they are the COLLECTIVE) fought for things to become standard in many Awards that Australian workers rely on. John Howard wants to take that away from you.

Here are some examples that might disappear in the near future:

· Annual leave
· Annual leave loading
· Public holiday rates of pay
· Penalty shift rates (eg. for night shift)
· Weekend rates (same rate of pay for working on Sunday as any other day)
· Incentive payments and Bonuses
· Ordinary hours of work
· 40/38/36 hour weeks
· Overtime pay
· Skill based career paths and classifications
· Parental leave (including Maternity, Adoption and Paternity leave)
· Award Long Service Leave
· Unreasonable Overtime protection
· Casual loadings
· Carer’s leave
· Sick leave
· Rest and lunch breaks
· Bereavement leave
· Family leave
· Award Superannuation guarantees
· Notice of termination
· Redundancy
· Dispute resolution procedures
· Notice periods for variations to working hours
· Jury Service leave
· An uncomplicated legal right to take Industrial Action over unfair things
· Unfair Dismissal provisions
· Continuous and fair pay increases

(If you don’t think Unions do anything, then feel free to take all of the above out of your working conditions, this is just examples of what we do.)

He will weaken the ‘no disadvantage test’, which was hard fought for by the ALP etc., for AWAs – making it much easier for unfair AWAs to be forced upon unsuspecting workers.

In NSW, we have one of the best Industrial Relations systems in the world. The Industrial Relations Commission of NSW is a FAIR and INDEPENDENT umpire and arbitrator. They punish Unions/workers for doing the wrong things as well as employers. They stick to what is justified and fair legal entitlements. There is no Americanisation of it; It is not, and never will be, a ridiculous litigious type system.

John Howard wants to take that away from you, so that HE and HIS CRONIES have direct control over the judges that HE puts in the FEDERAL Industrial Commission.

He wants to take away power from the Industrial Commissions to set our minimum wages in Australia. Currently arguments from many sides are heard before proper judges in many states and they make decisions on what a fair minimum wage increase should be each year. The increases granted are usually between $10 and $20 per week and I think the current minimum wage is about $24,000 per year. John Howard wants his own people to make a decision on what sort of increase, if any, nearly 2,000,000 workers would be entitled to each year – without any arguments being presented by employers and employee representatives – just elitist bastards who don’t have a clue what it’s like for people who have to scrounge up that extra few dollars to pay for the basics.

The peak Union bodies (ACTU and in NSW, the Labor Council) fight for this each year, but we won’t be able to do it in the future. Expect to go 3, 4 or even 5 years sometimes WITHOUT any wage increases “because of the good of the economy�. It will be a US style system where the minimum wage is only $5 an hour, and hasn’t had any real increase for many many years. Meanwhile, living expenses will go up, and you won’t be compensated for it. Imagine your rent, or mortgage payments going up each year – and finally, by year 4 – YOU’RE OUT. Perhaps out on the street? Who knows. But it WILL happen to people.

There are many people in Australia that we now refer to as “the working poor�. These are people who have jobs, but still can’t afford basics in life.

Imagine being a single mum (with 2 kids under 5) on $18,000 per year (after tax), plus, lets say she gets an extra $5,000 per year in various welfare arrangements).

Major expenses per year:

Rent: $8,000 (e.g a run-down 2 bedroom apartment in Minto)
Child care costs (eg 2 children): $10,000+ (would be $26,000 unsubsidised)
Groceries: $2500 (approx $50 per week)
Bills: $2,500 – electricity, gas, water, phone etc.

Nothing is left. If rent went up, they don’t eat. If Groceries go up, the children stay at home by themselves. If phone line rental goes up, the have to walk down the road and use the public phone. If electricity and gas goes up, they don’t eat, and use candles at night to see, and freeze in Winter.

The working poor? Or the living dead?

What kind of life do you want for the citizens of Australia? The supposed “lucky country� where there is no real investment any more in infrastructure and most importantly, investment in families and people’s happiness.

This sort of situation is real; it exists now, and will become more commonplace in the future under Howard’s plan to ruin Australian families.

Australia: The new America.

I think I’d rather live in Britain (now you know I’m serious!)