New name – same old IR laws: Govt move to ban references to ‘WorkChoices’ is a cover-up
New name – same old IR laws: Govt move to ban references to ‘WorkChoices’ is a cover-up
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In a further attempt to cover up the impact of its unfair IR laws on working families, it has been revealed today that the telephone hotline set up to promote the Federal Government’s new IR laws is to change its name and ban all references to ‘WorkChoices’.

The ‘WorkChoices Infoline’ was set up in October 2005 to promote the Government’s new IR laws amid a $55 million advertising campaign funded by taxpayers.

It is now to be called ‘Workplace Infoline’ and staff have been issued a directive that ‘All references to WorkChoices should be changed to workplace relations.’

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

“This is another Government cover-up  — new name, same old unfair laws.

We have the same old unfair IR laws, but now they will be given a new name in an attempt to cover up their impact on the take home pay and lack of job security for working Australians.

It is a desperate measure from a Government that doesn’t care about working families and is only interested in getting re-elected.

Banning the name ‘ WorkChoices’ won’t alter the fact that people are being ripped off by the new IR laws.

More than four million Australians have lost protection from being sacked unfairly under the laws.

Working Australians are being ripped off by the loss of penalty rates, overtime pay, public holiday payments, leave loading and other award entitlements under John Howard’s IR laws and the Government’s new ‘Fairness Test’ is farce.

New data released this week provides clear evidence that the IR laws are putting downward pressure on the wages of working Australians.

Despite a booming economy, large numbers of working Australians are facing either stagnating or declining wages.

The Howard Government has lost all credibility on IR and working families will see through this latest cover up,” said Ms Burrow. 

Call-takers at Govt’s IR hotline told never to say ‘I don’t know’ – despite widespread confusion 

Despite widespread confusion over the Federal Government’s latest IR changes that were introduced ten days ago without supporting legislation, call-takers at the official government IR hotline have been issued a directive to never say ‘I don’t know’ when callers are unhappy with the lack of information about the new ‘Fairness Test.

A previously confidential script for call-takers at the Government’s new ‘Workplace Infoline’ released to the media today provides instructions for when callers are dissatisfied with the lack of available information, stating:

‘At no timer is an Advisor to use the phrase “I don’t know” when answering a caller’s query. Rather, Advisors should say that “this is the information that is currently available; we can offer you a call back when further information becomes available.”’

In another sign that the Federal Government’s WorkChoices IR laws are so reviled by the Australian public, the call centre instructions also directs call-takers to avoid mentioning the legislation:

 ‘Reference to the legislation should be avoided if possible… In ALL instances a client should be referred to the workplace website (www.workplace.gov.au), not to the WorkChoices website.’

Commenting on the revelations today, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

“The Government’s new ‘Fairness Test’ is a farce and will not protect people’s penalty rates, shift allowances, overtime pay, public holiday pay, annual leave loading and other award entitlements.

The Howard Government has no credibility on this issue.

The fact is that millions of workers won't be covered by this new 'Fairness test'.  Workers in new businesses, people on existing AWA individual contracts and those in award-free areas are just some of the people that won't be protected.

Without the legislative detail, it is also unclear whether non-monetary things like free video hire and pizzas can be offered to workers in video stores or cafes in exchange for losing all of their penalty rates or overtime pay under these changes.

And it appears that workers in country areas or young people getting their first job are not guaranteed proper financial compensation for losing their penalty rates, overtime pay, public holiday pay, annual leave loading or other award conditions.

The call centre script contradicts the Government’s assurance that when in doubt ‘it would be appropriate to provide full monetary compensation for the removal of penalty rates’, stating:

‘The Fairness Test will consider both monetary and non-monetary compensation in exchange for changes to the protected award conditions.’ and

In some circumstances, factors such as the industry, location, economic circumstances of the business and the employment circumstances or opportunities of the employee will also be considered.’

Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey is using the Sergeant Schultz defence – ‘I know nothing’ — when he should be telling the public the simple truth that workers’ take home pay and conditions are not protected under the IR laws,” said Ms Burrow.

Contact Details
Ian Wilson
Mob: 0408 513 849
iwilson@actu.asn.au