Australian government planning wage-cutting anti-worker legislation

Health Service Union of Western Australia rally demanding a pay rise

AUSTRALIA’S Prime Minister Scott Morrison used the cover of the Easter long weekend to announce his government’s plan, if re-elected, to bring in anti-worker legislation which will cut wages for millions of working people.

In comments last Saturday, Morrison confirmed that he would bring back all elements of the failed ‘IR Omnibus’ – a suite of laws which he withdrew last year after being unable to win support in Parliament.
‘Morrison’s comments also tried to suggest unions and business agreed with the legislation – this is an outright lie,’ declared the Australian Council of Trades Unions (ACTU) on Tuesday.
The laws would further entrench wage cuts by removing basic protections that ensure working people do not go backwards on pay or conditions.
Working people have already suffered almost a decade of record low wage growth, the Morrison government’s recent budget showed that workers could only expect further falls in real wages.
ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said: ‘People are under more pressure than ever to pay their bills with cost of living increases far outstripping pay rises.
‘The average worker is going backwards in real terms every month, last year they went backwards $800.
‘It is disgraceful we have living standards going backwards and now Scott Morrison has confirmed if re-elected he will keep attacking workers’ rights.
‘The discredited laws he wants to bring back strip away some of the most basic protections working people have against pay cuts – such as the Better Off Overall Test.
‘Unions have always opposed these laws because they would leave workers worse off.
‘The Prime Minister has not done the work necessary to create wage growth and this announcement shows that workers will only continue going backwards if he is re-elected.’
Morrison confirmed on Tuesday morning that if re-elected he will tie pay rises for thousands of construction workers to the rate of increase in the National Minimum Wage.
Morrison’s new Greenfields Agreement policy would represent a pay cut for huge numbers of workers building projects for multi-national construction and mining companies, some of the most profitable companies operating in Australia.
Current agreements that have pay increases higher than the minimum wage increases that would have been undercut under Morrison’s new plan include:

  • Transco Power, Snowy Hydro 2.0, M4M Link tunnels, Rozelle Interchange and the Western Harbour Tunnel in NSW
  • Queens Wharf and Cross River Rail in Queensland
  • ION Electrical in South Australia
  • Metro Tunnel and Melbourne Major Roads in Victoria
  • 1 Esplanade Project and Metronet in WA

The national minimum wage has increased 2.71 per cent on average since 2015.
Over the same timeframe Greenfields agreements have delivered an average of 3.1 per cent pay rises.
Once again the Prime Minister is making it clear that if re-elected he will continue the low wage growth and real pay cuts which workers have been suffering under his government for almost a decade.
Sally McManus said: ‘The mining and construction companies that run these projects are some of the most profitable companies operating in Australia.
‘The Prime Minister is once again proposing to cut the wages of working people while protecting the profits of big businesses.
‘These projects have been plagued with serious mental health issues with suicides related to the stresses FIFO (First In First Out) workers face due to unreasonable rosters, poor facilities and poor support.
‘These agreements can also lock in high levels of casualisation, labour hire and the use of temporary visa workers. They remove any ability for workers to resolve and improve these issues, including negotiating pay increases that ensure workers are not suffering real wage cuts.’

  • Australian unemployment remains at 4 per cent according to ABS labour force statistics released last week.

This is cold comfort to working people who have struggled through nearly a decade of record-low wage growth, and are facing another real wages cut in the first six months of this year.
The Prime Minister promised wage growth when the unemployment rate hit 5 per cent, then 4 per cent, and now says that the decade of low wage growth will be over when unemployment dips below 4 per cent.
Every rosy projection he has made on wages has been wrong.
The reality is that the Morrison government has done nothing to generate wage growth, and has in fact made it easier for employers to keep working people in insecure, low-paid jobs.
The headline unemployment rate hides the reality that millions of Australians are in insecure work, working multiple jobs at the highest rate on record and struggling to find the hours that they need to support themselves and their families.
This crisis in insecure work has broken the long-established connection between low unemployment and wage growth as workers simply do not have security they need to push for pay rises.
ACTU President Michele O’Neil said: ‘The Morrison government promised wages growth when unemployment hit 5 per cent, and 4 per cent, now working people are told the pay rises are coming, we just need unemployment in the 3 per cent range.
‘The headline unemployment number hides the fact that millions of Australians are looking for more hours, working multiple jobs or have given up looking for work all together. Insecure work is the biggest barrier working people face in the fight for wage growth.
‘The Prime Minister knows it will take action from the Federal Government to create wage growth, but like so many other issues, he has gone missing on wages when working people needed him most.
‘For almost a decade, the Federal Government has been promising wage growth. The truth is Scott Morrison and his government will never deliver pay rises for working people because they do not accept that low wages and insecure work are a problem. Australian workers deserve better.’
Aged care workers in some of Australia’s largest aged care providers have voted in favour of going on strike amid widespread anger about the treatment of workers and aged care residents.
Thousands of aged care workers have warned their employer to address understaffing that leaves aged care residents distressed and frustrated, or employers will face imminent strike action.
‘Aged care workers are being forced to take unprecedented strike action because of pay and conditions that are failing workers and failing residents,’ United Workers Union Aged Care Director, Carolyn Smith, said on Tuesday.
United Workers Union members at BlueCare, Queensland’s largest aged care provider and Southern Cross Care in SA, South Australia’s largest residential aged care provider, have voted in favour of strike action.
They join aged care workers in three other major aged care facilities – Anglicare in SA, Hall & Prior in WA and Churches of Christ in Queensland – who have voted to take industrial action to address the aged care crisis.
The providers have more than 7,000 aged care workers and care for about 7,000 aged care residents.
The strike action will represent the first time aged care workers have taken national strike action in protest at their employer’s failure to address low rates of pay and inability to provide adequate staffing levels.
‘Aged care workers are beside themselves with fatigue and they are emotionally exhausted by the distressed residents they see every single day,’ Smith said.
‘Aged care workers know the Federal Government has failed them in the vaccination rollout, failed them with PPE and failed them in the Omicron outbreak when 900 aged care residents died, so they are holding their employers accountable.
‘Across these major providers residents are being left without basic needs being met, they are left soiled for extended periods and they are at risk of falls when left unattended.
‘In addition, aged care workers face pay levels so low they can barely afford the petrol to get to work and outrageously heavy workloads mean a majority of aged care workers are thinking about resigning for good.’
The industrial action endorsed by aged care workers at the five major aged care providers allows indefinite stoppages and other forms of industrial action.
A vote is being conducted at three other major aged care providers, Aegis and Regis in WA and Bolton Clarke (formerly Allity) in South Australia.
If union members vote in favour of protected action, providers with more than 12,000 staff and about the same number of residents will be the subject of strike action.
‘Details of what kind of action aged care workers wish to take will be worked out in coming days – but no employer should underestimate the level of anger after years of neglect of aged care workers and their residents,’ Smith said.
In any strike the union will work with providers about arrangements for the safety and wellbeing of residents, on top of the union’s legal obligations to give providers several days notice about any actions that may be taken.