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Howard won't budge on guarantee to protect employees on the minium wage. [together with ] Extracts of the Hospitality Industry - Accomodation, Hotels, Resorts and Gaming Award 1998 [and] Transport Workers Award 1998.

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Stephen Smith MP Shadow Minister for Industry, Infrastructure and Industrial Relations Member for Perth

46/05 23 May 2005


Prime Minister Howard has again today refused to guarantee that no individual Australian worker will be worse off under the Howard Government’s proposed changes to industrial relations.

In Question Time today I asked the Prime Minister the following question:

Has the Prime Minister seen suggestions that the Government’s proposed industrial relations changes could include introducing one minimum wage scale per award through the collapsing of classification levels?

Won’t this mean, for example, that cooks employed in the hospitality industry could have their wages slashed by over $150 a week and drivers employed in the transport industry at the highest level of their award could have their wages slashed by over $100 a week?

Will the Prime Minister guarantee, as part of the Government’s proposed changes to determining the minimum wage, that individual employees on award will not be worse off?

The Prime Minister refused to give that guarantee or to answer the question at all.

In making changes to the minimum wage and wage scales of awards, the Government could introduce one minimum wage for each Award. This could lead to thousands of Australian employees having their wage slashed to the lowest pay rate level of the

respective Award.

In the case of employees in the transport industry, drivers paid at the highest level of their Award, $608.30 a week, could have their wage reduced to the lowest Award pay level of $501.20, a loss of $107.10 a week.

Similarly, employees in the hospitality industry face one of the biggest wage slashes, with cooks on the highest paid Award level of $621.80 a week at risk of being reduced to the lowest paid level of $467.40. That’s a massive loss of $154.40 a week.

While the Prime Minister waxed lyrical about real wages, he continues to deliberately ignore the fact that if he had have had his own way in opposing to every minimum wage increase since 1996, Australian employees on the minimum wage would be $44 a week or $2300 a year worse off.

The Howard Government’s constant avoidance of the adverse impact of its extreme and ideologically driven proposed changes in industrial relations was further reinforced by Minister for Workplace Relations also in Question Time today when he referred to the Australian Industry Group’s report Reforming the Federal workplace relations system - Industry views.

In highlighting the Survey’s reference to productivity improvements, Minister Andrews deliberately omitted the AiG’s strong public policy position that any industrial relations changes had to be underpinned by fairness.

In February Minister Andrews walked away from the notion of fairness being a public policy criteria in his proposed industrial relations changes.

With the Howard Government happy to ignore fairness or a fair go in its industrial relations changes, is it any wonder the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Workplace Relations continue to refuse to guarantee that no individual Australian employee will be worse off under the proposed changes.

Without such a guarantee Australian employees and their families will bear the brunt of this extreme, unfair and divisive approach, with wages reduced, entitlements stripped and safety nets removed.

Contact: Courtney Hoogen on (02) 6277 4108 or 0414 364 651