In April 2008, workplace relations minister Julia Gillard began the process of "award simplification", asking the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) to compress about 2500 existing state and federal awards into just 120.
At the time, Gillard promised that the new, simplified awards would not disadvantage bosses or workers. The reality, as details of the new system have unfolded, has been rather different.
On September 3, the Sydney Morning Herald reported the AIRC had announced, that with the implementation of the "simplified" awards on January 1, cuts to workers' conditions would take force immediately, while any increases in wages would be phased in over five years. Workers in the finance and insurance sectors would lose their minimum four-hour call-back payment for Saturday work, while casual textile workers' loading would fall from 33% to 25%.
The September 4 SMH reported PM Kevin Rudd had downgraded the "promise" that workers would not be disadvantaged to an "objective".
Gillard has already intervened to stop the commission from raising wages for workers in the restaurant trade and fruit growers. She has not intervened to stop the stripping of conditions from workers.