Work Choices comes to bite coalition
Australian Financial Review
4th October 2007
That thousands of employers face massive claims for backpay surely reflects a failure by the government to understand the award system ("Employers anger as 30,000 AWAs fail test", September 29). For many years it has been widely recognised that awards were often not applied in practice because the Australian Industrial Relations Commission set them above market and little attempt was made to enforce them. This has been particularly true in the case of small businesses in the service industries, where a quasi deregulated labour market operated.
Now, however, the government is in effect requiring all awards, including those out of line with market conditions, to be enforced by the industrial police and quasi-judicial authorities it created in the form of the Workplace Authority and Ombudsman. This is the first time such widespread enforcement of awards will have occurred in the history of the Australian industrial relations system: Orwell has arrived.
If this continues, many employers with Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) concluded in line with market conditions will be penalised because they acted sensibly in ignoring the award and responding to such conditions by employing persons prepared to work under them.
Given the Government's policy of encouraging the conclusion of AWAs, and the absurdity of the system that has attempted to supplant the market with over 4,000 awards, there is an urgent need to review the application of a test that is neither fair nor desirable in terms of its potential to have adverse effects on employment.