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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr CURTIN - The views of the Emergency Committee of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions on this matter have been placed before me. I have had a consultation with the Director-General of Allied Works, and the position, briefly, is this: The men previously followed a great variety of occupations, and they are to be transferred to works under the direction of the Allied Works Council. The works will be carried out in accordance with the provisions of the appropriate industrial awards, both in respect of crafts and of the place in which the work is done, but a period of time must elapse between the calling up of the men and their assignment to a particular work in a particular place. There was no award in existence to cover this interregnum. Such questions as what should be the rates of pay, or what was the degree of responsibility of the Allied Works Council to the men, had not been decided. A man could not be paid the award rate applicable to his previous job, because he was no longer working at it, and he could not be paid at the rate applicable to the job at which he would eventually work, because he had not been assigned to any specific job. Therefore, so that he would be assured of sick pay and a definite status from the time that he came under the control of the Allied Works Council, this code was formulated. I have the assurance of Mr. Blakeley that, as a determination, it is eminently fair. It is unfortunate that there had been no previous consultation between the representatives of the Allied Works Council and the trade unions; but on Monday afternoon there was a conference between the DirectorGeneral of Allied Works and representatives of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. I do not know what took place, but the Director-General has assured me that he accepts the position that every man called up will be dealt with in accordance with the appropriate award covering the work upon which he will be employed. This was agreed to by the Government after consultation with the trade unions. The present arrangement is an improvement on the vast majority of awards in that it provides sick pay and workers' compensation, benefits which were in doubt, because the tuen are not in the employment of any one except the council until they are assigned to particular jobs. The DirectorGeneral stated that, whether or not the determination was a good one, was open to discussion; but in his opinion it was good, and he would be pleased if the unions would take it to the Arbitration Court and have it either confirmed or varied, though he expressed the opinion that he could not see how any union could be in a position to take the matter to court. As for plumbers, any man who works as a plumber will be paid accord-, ing to the award for plumbers; but, until he is actually employed in that capacity, he cannot be so paid.

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