Wednesday, 25 June 2014
Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014; Second Reading
The Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014 is part of the wind-up to the government's attack on people's rights at work. Try as this government might to be as self-disciplined as they had been during the election campaign when they said that Work Choices was dead, buried and cremated, they just cannot help themselves. Just as with the budget where we saw the beginning of the real agenda of this government start to peek through, we are seeing it with respect to people's rights at work.
We already saw prior to this bill—and this bill is part of the attack—a move to allow employers to contract out of collective agreements and minimum award standards with employees and to reach agreements with employees where they can take non-monetary benefits into account. That is going to mean that the fish and chip shop owner will be able to say to the employee: 'I'm going to pay you partly in fish and chips. I know you can't pay electricity with that and I know you can't pay your rent with that, but that is no concern of mine. I'm now allowed to take into account non-monetary benefits.' When you put that next to the most appalling changes to unemployment assistance for people under 30 that this country has ever seen, you can very quickly see how a young worker is going to be forced to either take payment in fish and chips or end up spending six months a year with no income at all. So that is what this government has in store for people under 30.
Then along comes this bill, which is working on one simple principle: 'We will come for the unions first so that there is no-one there left to protect the workers when we come for them.' One thing I do not expect members on the other side to know from personal experience—because I am sure they have very rarely been in unions, except perhaps the AMA—is that unions play a number of important roles.