Change The Rules
IEUA-QNT members know Australia's industrial rules need to change.
We need to change the rules, because:
- Inequality is at a 70-year high in Australia.
- The insidious spread of insecure work is preventing workers from planning for the future.
- There is one set of rules for employers and one for employees.
- Workers face the threat of having their hard fought working conditions stripped back to the Award.
- Empowered by industrial laws operating in their favour, employers simply refuse to bargain.
- Working women continue to face wage and superannuation inequity.
Workers are facing an uncertain industrial landscape for the next three years, following the re-election of the Coalition government.
While other major parties had endorsed the Change The Rules campaign agenda ahead of the election, the Coalition had made no similar commitment.
The Change The Rules campaign includes a comprehensive policy agenda, which aims to return fairness for workers into our industrial system.
The lack of certainty from the Coalition government leaves a host of key industrial issues languishing, including:
- Mechanisms to support clear transition from insecure work to permanent employment – such as a conversion option after a certain number of rolling contracts;
- Action on key collective bargaining legislation to rebalance power between employers and employees and support more effective bargaining;
- Closing loopholes in legislation that make it too easy for employers to pursue the cancellation of existing collective agreements;
- The restoration of penalty rates and further action on stagnating wages;
- Introduction of sector-wide bargaining to support enhanced bargaining in industries with a large number of smaller employers – such as the early childhood education sector;
- Empowering the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to more easily settle bargaining disputes;
- Addressing sham contracting, where workers are forced to obtain ABNs and set up their own business rather than receive a permanent job;
- A right for long-term casual workers to convert to a permanent position if they choose to; and
- Key actions to address gender inequality in our workplaces – including better laws to address sexual harassment, 10 days’ paid domestic violence leave and equal pay laws.
IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said the refusal from the Coalition government to announce clear industrial relations policy ahead of the election meant workers now face deep uncertainty on key industrial matters.
“Australian workers are now in a situation where they cannot be sure how our industrial system will look for the next three years,” Mr Burke said.
“While many workers were expecting action from a new government on key issues such as insecure work, collective bargaining and stagnating wages, it may now be the case that they face inaction – or even further cuts – on these crucial industrial matters."
Mr Burke said unions’ Change The Rules campaign had succeeded in bringing industrial issues to the forefront of public consciousness, particularly when it comes to wage fairness.
“Unions will continue to campaign for the positive change that is essential to rebalance Australia’s industrial system.”
In 2016, Queensland Catholic school employers were relentless in their attempt to frustrate members’ ability to take protected action. Our union ticked every box to ensure the protected action followed the correct process. Part of the protected action was a ban on attending staff meetings.
However, employers seemed set on their agenda to stop members’ voices being heard, and began an argument surrounding the definition of “staff meeting”. The employers’ challenge was an intentional attempt to obstruct protected action and disengage workers from the collective bargaining process.
The employers’ refusal to acknowledge any definition of a staff meeting other than their own led to a challenge in the Federal Circuit Court, where the employers were prepared to spend tens of thousands of dollars on legal representation and assistance all to create distraction, and disregard their responsibility to listen to their employees.
Employer threats to withdraw existing collective agreements highlight the need for employees to avoid complacency when it comes to keeping their working rights and conditions.
This has been evidenced at a Brisbane kindergarten where inappropriate advice and a lack of consultation resulted in the employer attempting to terminate their collective agreement.
The kindergarten’s current agreement was agreed to by the then Committee in 2016 and was to remain until the end of 2018. However, employees at the kindergarten were told that their rates of pay and conditions would be subject to individual common law contracts of employment.
Introducing individual employment contracts for each employee contains no security in an employee’s wages and conditions and could instead result in reduced wages, increased hours of duty, increased attendance at the kindergarten and the mandating of additional work requirements.
It is clear that a broken collective bargaining system — with laws that allow employers to terminate agreements — contributes to downward pressure on wages and conditions. Many employers are now treating collective bargaining with a sense of indifference and it is now time for our industrial rules to change.