Sunday, February 26, 2006

And so it begins

REDUCE workers' conditions if you want to stay competitive — that is the stark choice employers face under the new federal industrial relations laws that come into effect next month, according to the [Victorian] State Government.

Attorney-General Rob Hulls has warned employers could be forced to cut the pay and conditions of workers if their competitors slashed conditions under the new laws. (Link)

Australia's new industrial relations legislation, the same legislation that's going to be providing us with all those"choices", that won't result in an "overall" reduction in wages, that cost up to $60 million dollars in advertising to inform us about the benefits, obviously hasn't sunk in and people are already getting confused about how good it is.

Such as the 2,500 slackarse Qantas workers who don't seem to understand the "engineering transformation" that's being planned in their workplace. Management from "the spirit of Australia" won't confirm where the jobs will be going but noted that costs in China are 20% lower. Which is no surprise when factory workers there can expect to be paid as much as $US625 a year if they play their cards right.

Prime Minister Howard was happy to share his views on this matter, defending Qantas' decision and saying that job cuts often reflect the commercial realities of competing internationally. However Mr Howard's views on the recent decision by his Government to again reject Singapore Airlines' decade-long bid to compete with Qantas on the highly sought-after Sydney-Los Angeles route because it was "not in the national interest" are currently either unknown or unreported.

In the meantime, the blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony is reporting that a car parts factory in Melbourne is "negotiating" a 5% drop in pay for current workers, 20% pay cut for new workers, removal of rostered days off and restrictions on sick day and overtime entitlements. And given that the company only made $25 million in net profit last year, who can blame them?

Closer to home the iconic Sydney Opera House (SOH) is currently is in a spot of bother for sub contracting an American-based multinational to undertake its building maintenance and inspection services. Employees are complaining about unfair work practices but management has made it perfectly clear that no-one is issuing threats or terminating positions - "All employees who are working for Lucas Stuart at SOH have been given the opportunity to apply for work with the new contractor if they wish to stay on site at SOH," said a representative from the SOH. The new sub contractor must know a thing or two given that they already enjoy other "Australian" clients such as Sydney Airport, AMP and Telstra. Better still, they're currently enjoying some pretty healthy profits too - 125.8% at last count.

Anyway, getting thousands of kilograms of metal to stay up in the sky is a bit like - er - rocket science so I guess I should just take people's word for the need to buy these specialist skills from somewhere else. After all, we wouldn't want to compromise safety or anything. So I must admit I was a tad surprised when I discovered that the "clever country" is needing to bring in all manner of 21st century expertise in order to keep the colony running.

Did you know that we're so unskilled that we're facing a national shortage of bakers, requiring us to import some from Vietnam? Vietnam was "influenced" by the French which is why they've got so many skilled bakers but if wages wasn't the core issue and French baking skills was the thing they wanted, you'd have to wonder why they didn't import the bakers from France? But hey - what would I know - I'm just another unskilled blight on the national landscape.

Meanwhile, Aussie icon Holden is relying on the specialist skills of welders and grinders from Croatia and Slovenia - this time through a German company who is subcontracting these services - in spite of the 1000+ workers that were laid off from company at the end of last year who are presumably willing and available to undertake these roles. There is also some contention about the wages being paid to the specialist workers.
A Holden spokesman said last night that any dispute about workers' entitlements was out of the carmaker's control because they were not Holden employees.

Football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars - Oi, Oi, Oi!
But the spokesman said Holden had been assisting the AMWU with inquiries.

("Assisting with inquiries"? Isn't that the sort of thing they say on CSI? But I digress...)

Given the shocking levels of ineptitude in this unclever country it should then be no surprise to read Road to Surfdom's post about Indonesian workers digging ditches in South Australia for $40 a day, which "equates to about 272,000 Indonesian rupiah and would be more than double what most Indonesians earn in a month".

Thank God they're being so amply rewarded for their contributions to this wide brown land. Clearly we're so clueless that pretty soon we'll soon be needing to import all sorts of specialist services into the country.

And with the world containing 6.5 billion people as of today, most of whom live in the charmingly named "developing world", I don't think we'll be running short on suitable employees in a hurry. In fact, at 272.000 rupiah per day, pretty soon we'll be able to hire as many servants - er - employees as we want. Assuming we're employed too, that is.
THE nation's employers have scored a big win in a battle to stop unions escaping the Howard Government's new workplace laws, after a group of Boeing employees were refused the right to seek refuge in the NSW system.

A full bench of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission yesterday overturned a decision by its NSW counterpart that had forced Boeing to accept the state tribunal's authority.

The Australian Workers Union is now blocked from trying to use the NSW labour system to have non-union individual employment contracts at Boeing replaced with a collective union wage agreement for 22 of the company's maintenance workers. (Link)

Remember Howard *insisting* that no-one on existing awards would be forced to give those up?

The great God Google tells me that the Australian Industrial Relations Commission is "the Commission that deals with industrial relations matters". But if people who have signed Australian Workplace Agreements are beyond their jurisdiction and everyone's going to be forced to "choose" to work under Australian Workplace Agreements sooner or later, then what the hell are the AIRC funded to do and who the hell will be protecting us all from being exploited by unscrupulous employers?

Makes me wish we had a body of people we could pay to look after our interests. Like a government or something.

And if you're still not disturbed, consider this:

The new industrial relations laws haven't even come into effect yet.

Thanks to Ivan for the photo

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