Big business has laid its cards squarely on the table on the issue of future working conditions in Australia.
In its submission to the Productivity Commission’s review of current workplace laws, the Business Council of Australia (BCA) has proposed a further “simplification” of the current award system with the ultimate goal of having one single award for the whole workforce.
Needless to say, that award would be very simple indeed.
It would not contain casual loadings, overtime and penalty rates or shift loadings. These would be rolled into the Minimum Wage setting process, currently conducted by the Fair Work Commission (FWC). The aim would be to achieve “consistency” across the whole of the workforce.
The “consistent” penalty rate would of course be the minimum rate possible – e.g. a 25% extra loading - and, under the proposal, this would apply to every worker regardless of the time of the shift or the industry involved.
Obviously this is a recipe for a massive decline in conditions for millions of working people.
While it is enterprise agreements that set the actual entitlements of employees in today’s system, awards still play a vital role as safety nets, ensuring that where workers lack bargaining power fair basic job standards still apply.
That is why the CWU has devoted so much time and energy to protecting our award conditions in both Telstra and Optus during the award modernisation process.
The work standards set by awards exist today because generations of working people have fought for them and defended them.
The BCA proposal represents an attempt to wipe out this legacy. As such, it stands as a warning of what big business has in store for Australian workers – if it is allowed to get its way.