The acting Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has officially buried Work Choices. The first piece of the new Government’s industrial relations legislation has now been passed into law, after being proclaimed by the Governor General. There will now be no new Australian Workplace Agreements ever again.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be individual contracts. There will. Employers can still use statutory contracts subject to the newly reinstated “no disadvantage” test. So, why scrap A.W.A.s, which actually operated quite successfully for ten years before Work Choices? Why not simply revise A.W.A.s to restore fairness to the agreements?
The fact is that, under Work Choices, A.W.A.s were given a bad name. They became forever tainted by the fact that they were in some cases abused by unscrupulous employers attempting to exploit workers in a way that left them stripped of pay and conditions.
The outrage inspired by such blatantly one-sided deals as the notorious two cent pay rise left the image of A.W.A.s mortally wounded. So regardless of whatever merit the individual contracts once might have had, they became a symbol of everything that was wrong with work choices.
Of course, the then opposition did everything possible to promote that view, so it follows that A.W.A.s would disappear along with the rest of Work Choices.
The promise that has been made by the new Government is that none of us will be worse off, and that is supposedly guaranteed by legislation. Of course, the question is will we actually be better off?
With the dramatically changing economic climate you can be certain that the current opposition will blame any adverse outcomes in employment on the new industrial relations regime. Right or wrong, some people will believe it.
But, that’s politics.