The Guardian July 14, 1999


Industrial Relations on a knife edge in SA

Despite a setback in State Parliament last week, South Australia's 
ultra-conservative Olsen Government remains intent on introducing 
legislation to curtail the employment rights and prospects of the State's 
workers.

The State Industrial Relations Bill was due to be voted on last week. 
However, the Government postponed the vote until the July 27, partly 
because of community opposition to the legislation but in particular to 
give them more time to pressure the Democrats and independent MPs, who have 
indicated they are unwilling to support the Bill.

The United Trades and Labour Council of South Australia (UTLC) has given 
the following example of the impact of the Olsen Government's new 
industrial relations laws on employment prospects for workers:

Marie, a 20-year-old woman, has been working casually while studying. 
She is offered a full-time job in a small business of five employees under 
an individual Workplace Agreement.

The terms of employment are not negotiable and she is bound by 
confidentiality. She is too scared to call in her union to check her 
conditions in case she loses the job and is told by DAIS that they cannot 
intervene.

She is put on a flat rate lower than the base rate of her old job, as 
under the new Bill a junior rate has been introduced. Marie is also told 
there are no penalties for working Saturdays or evenings.

When she complains to her boss she is told there are plenty who would 
like her position and she is given all the late shifts and Saturday work. 
She complains again, asking for some Saturdays off, and is dismissed.

As she is working in a business of less than 15 employees she has no 
recourse to unfair dismissal and has no-one to advocate on her behalf. 
Marie loses her job.

The position of women is particularly vulnerable under the Bill, as 
illustrated by employer comments on the legislation. A recent letterbox 
campaign by the UTLC resulted in many replies from angry workers, but also 
a number of illuminating responses from employers outraged that the UTLC 
should campaign against the Bill.

One employer stated flatly that he welcomed the proposals because it meant 
he would no longer have to employ pregnant women. He felt that once women 
became pregnant they were less productive and should be sacked!

Others openly looked forward to the prospect of being able to drive down 
the already desperately low youth wage, and to not having to pay penalty 
rates for weekend and night work.

The employers as a whole expressed the belief that the Bill would give them 
the ability to hire and fire at will, and to drive down wages and 
conditions, which they considered they had a right to do.

Community groups, churches and the Youth Affairs Council have expressed 
vigorous opposition to the legislation. The ALP, the Democrats and 
independent member Nick Xenophon have indicated they will vote against the 
Bill. The UTLC will be lobbying independents Terry Cameron and Trevor 
Crothers to defeat this vicious legislation.

The UTLC is also gearing up for a campaign against the Federal Industrial 
Relations legislation, and have called for a day of protest actions on 
Wednesday August 11, including work stoppages and a rally at Victoria 
Square at 11.00am.

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