Queensland unions have called on federal industrial relations minister Michaelia Cash to use today’s national debate to reject back-door plans to cut wages and conditions through Productivity Commission recommendations.
Queensland Council of Unions Assistant General Secretary Michael Clifford said the minister needed to answer questions about her changing the rules that govern what the Fair Work Commission must consider when setting additional pay for working weekends.
“The Abbott-Turnbull Government is pretending to have a neutral position on weekend penalty rates when it has actually instigated the Productivity Commission recommendations designed to make the removal of penalty rates easier.
Recommendations that could open the door for the removal of penalty rates.
“Malcolm Turnbull and Michaelia Cash have been saying that he will leave the issue of penalty rates for the independent umpire,” said Mr Clifford.
“They say they will leave it to the umpire but are they planning to change the rules under which the umpire must hear the matter?” he said.
Minister Cash and Shadow federal industrial relations spokesperson Brendan O’Connor will debate employment today at the National Press Club in Canberra.
“Nothing from the LNP in this election campaign has given workers any comfort that penalty rates will be protected,” said Mr Clifford.
“The current legislation (that was introduced by an amendment led by Opposition leader Bill Shorten) requires the Fair Work Commission to ‘take into account the need to provide additional remuneration for employees working overtime; unsocial, irregular or unpredictable hours; working on weekends or public holidays; or working shifts’ when reviewing awards.
“The LNP and Mr Turnbull must also come clean on whether they support Productivity Commission recommendations calling for the reintroduction of ‘take or leave it’ agreements that will leave Queensland workers worse off,” said Mr Clifford.
“These enterprise contracts will enable employers to draft their own agreements that do not require any consultation with employees. The proposed contracts will not allow for employees to negotiate or be represented,” Mr Clifford said.
“In Queensland we have seen first-hand what happens when employers are able to use substandard agreements on a take it or leave basis at the inquiry into Labour Hire.
“Enterprise contracts would bring a return to the bad old days of WorkChoices,” he said.
“The only way to protect wages and conditions is to put the LNP last in both the House of Representatives and the Senate at the upcoming federal election on 2 July.”