ALP's work contracts: wolf in sheep's clothing

The Australian Services Union (ASU) Victorian secretary, Ingrid Stitt, told Green Left Weekly that Labor's new Interim Transitional Employment Agreements are a "wolf in sheep's clothing". The ITEAs were introduced by the Rudd government to replace the notorious Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs individual contracts).

Labor introduced the Workplace Relations Amendment (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Bill 2008, which prohibited the signing of new AWAs, into federal parliament on February 13. However, the bill allows bosses to use ITEAs if they have at least one worker on an existing AWA.

The ASU is currently in negotiations with Toll Dnata, an airline services company owned by Emirates and Toll Holdings, over the use of the new ITEAs for its 200 customer service and check-in staff.

The ASU claims that the current AWAs and subsequent ITEAS offered to staff contain conditions and pay below the award, leaving workers $5000 worse off annually. According to the International Transport Workers Federation, to which the ASU is affiliated, Toll Dnata workers are on a flat pay rate of $20 an hour without any shift allowances. Overtime payment is only possible after workers have put in 1786 hours per year.

Stitt told GLW that after waiting eight months, Toll Dnata staff at Melbourne airport were finally notified by the Workplace Authority that their employment contracts had failed the Workplace Authority's No Disadvantage Test.

Stitt said employees were not surprised with the findings and that Toll Dnata now had 37 days to rectify the contracts with the agreement of the employees.

According to Stitt, the current industrial relations laws make it easy for companies to rip off employees because they do not give workers enough collective bargaining rights.

"Labor's ITEAs are effectively no better than AWAs. Howard was voted out because people rejected his Work Choices policies and specifically the AWAs", Stitt said.

"The company should respect the wishes of the employees to be represented by their union. This long and arduous process could have been completely avoided if Australians had greater collective bargaining rights and if companies such as Toll Dnata were actually required by law to listen to the concerns of their employees' union representatives", she said.

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