No reward from the new Government’s new Award
During the 2007 election campaign, voters were led to believe via a massive scare campaign that Labor would provide wage protection.
The cruel irony is that whilst the Howard Government achieved real wage increases of over 19%, Labor’s new laws are actually leading to wage decreases.
What is most galling is the temerity of the Deputy Prime Minister when on 19th March 2008 she was asked by Kieran Gilbert on PM Agenda:
“The opposition has asked you to guarantee that no worker will be worse off, that no worker would be worse off under your system. Are you able to give that guarantee or is that too difficult?”
Her response was: “I am certainly able to guarantee that under the bill that passed the parliament today, Labor’s new laws, workers will not be disadvantaged by Labor’s new laws they will be substantially better off.”
The interviewer then asked: “So no group of workers will be worse off?
She responded: “Our bill today is about making people better off, and it will, and I can give the guarantee that no worker, from the bill we have passed today into Australian law, will be worse off.”
It is my melancholy duty to inform the Deputy Prime Minister that her guarantee is not worth the airwaves that broadcast it.
Whilst the Coalition has enunciated numerous examples of workers worse off, such as Aged Care workers, $300 a week worse off (Question Time 8th Feb 10) in the electorate of Fadden in the Gold Coast I have been inundated with calls from a range of workers who are meter readers with the Spotless Group.
It turns out that a Level 3 Senior Meter Reader on the ‘Meter Reading Employees Award – State 2005’ receives a weekly rate of pay of $694.20, plus a laundry allowance of $1.35 a week and an additional all purpose allowance of $21.43 a week.
All together, after a 38 hour working week the Senior Meter Reader received a gross income of $716.98.
That’s less than $37,500 a year before tax, not a great deal of money and certainly challenging to raise a family of a few children. When your income is at this level, any reduction can be the difference between moving forward and seriously going backwards.
It turns out that this Senior Meter Reader works for Spotless P&F Pty Ltd on contract to Energex. Under the Government’s award modernisation scheme, he is now classed as an ‘Administrative – Grade 1’ under the new Electrical Power Industry Award 2010.
This position has a weekly wage of $563, with no allowances. He is worse off by $153.98 per week, or $8006.96 a year.
An email that was sent from Spotless to a range of Energex executives says: “Guys, we need to make sure all staff are aware that, due to the implementation of the modern award as of 1 January, the majority of employees have incurred a reduction in their take-home pay. Please reiterate these changes verbally to all employees. The loss of allowance payments in regard to laundry allowance, 27 cents a day, and an all purpose allowance, $48.95, are the contributing factors. …….… Please impress upon employees that Spotless did not implement this modern award. This is a government issue.”
Hollow words when you’re facing a pay reduction of $153.98 a week. What is more vexing is that the Government knew this would occur, as the new award has a contingency if the new award wage is less than the old award.
Point A.3.5 in the new award has a table that says in the 1st year any reduction in pay between the old and new award is restricted to no more than 20%, rising by 20% each year.
Therefore on 1 July 2010 the loss of pay (excluding allowances) can only be 20% of the total pay difference, thus only 20% of the $131.20 difference (excluding allowances). Therefore, workers will be $26.24 + lost allowances of $22.78 = a total of $49.02 worse off on 1 July.
On 1 July 2011 this rises to 40%, so in 18 months they will be $52.48 + lost allowances of $22.78 = a total of $75.26 worse off. The loss keeps rising until it is 100% realized in a further three years.
This is written into the Award with the full knowledge of the Deputy Prime Minister.
The critical point is that this is not a one off situation; this is now occurring across the country in many industries and workers may not yet be aware of the situation they may be in.
So much for her statement “I can give the guarantee that no worker … will be worse off.”
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