The Morrison Government’s industrial relations bill will hurt workers, and hurt the economy

With Federal Parliament back in session, the fight over the Morrison Government’s Industrial Relations Bill is heating up.

Australian Unions oppose the Coalition’s dangerous plans—because they’re bad for wages, bad for workers’ conditions, and bad for the economy.

“It’s very simple; Australians can’t spend money that they don’t have. The more money is in working peoples’ pockets, the better off our economy will be,” ACTU President Michele O’Neil said this week.

“This Government is trying to pass an Industrial Relations bill which will make work more insecure, and will lead to cuts in take home pay and conditions for working people.”

If, like Tanya Plibersek facing down Craig Kelly in the corridors of Parliament, you feel the need to correct the record on these changes, here are some of the facts about how the new IR bill will hurt Australian workers.

Under the new laws, employers will be able to cut wages—with wage agreements allowed to drop even below the minimum award.

Workers on big construction sites will lose bargaining rights for up to eight years—a demand from big mining and construction companies that will target FIFO workers particularly hard.

Part-time workers are set to lose out too, with changes that will allow employers to call them casuals and strip away their leave rights.

Even as the Government makes its song and dance over provisions that would see casuals given the pathway to permanency, like so many announcements from Morrison and co., the devil is in the detail—or lack thereof. Without a clear, tangible enforcement mechanism, these requests for permanency will likely go nowhere.

The so-called reforms will hurt workers and hurt the economy, at the exact moment both need help the most. On Wednesday, Reserve Bank Governor Phillip Lowe told the National Press Club that jobs and wages are key to Australia’s recovery. Lowe’s warning was a stark reminder of how much we’re risking if we don’t get economic recovery right.

But the Government has it wrong on both sides of the jobs and wages equation. Scott Morrison has no plans for public investment on the scale this once-in-a-generation crisis demands, and still plans an abrupt end to income supports in April as part of his attempt to cut public spending.

The Morrison Government is also cosying up to big business interests with this suite of lop-sided legislation that will eat into workers’ wages. It’s not just the IR bill; employer groups are lobbying for a two-year amnesty on planned criminal penalties for wage theft for small and medium enterprises, and the Fair Work Commission is also considering a request from employers to trade in retail and hospitality workers’ penalty rates for higher wages.

Labor has come out strongly against the proposed changes, recognising this for what it is: an opportunistic attack on workers from the Federal Government and its friends in big business. In Parliament on Tuesday, Labor revealed calculations showing workers would be more than $10,000 a year worse off… and that’s just under the proposal to trade away penalty rates!

Labor and the Greens both oppose the IR bill in its current form, and it’s likely that the Senate crossbench will have a big say on which changes go through, and how. That’s why we need to make one thing clear to politicians on all sides: cuts to wages and conditions won’t fly with working people.

Step 1:

You can’t heal the economy by hurting workers

Step 2:

There can be no cuts to pay or the taking away of worker’s rights

Step 3:

Tag a friend

The Morrison Government knows full well that on industrial relations, public opinion matters—just like more than a decade ago, when Australians stood up against the Howard Government’s WorkChoices. And last fortnight, it emerged the Government, through Attorney General Christian Porter’s office, has signed a $200,000 contract for market research ahead of an expected advertising campaign to promote the new IR laws.

This is extraordinary—the same government that thinks we’re too cash-strapped to afford an extension to JobKeeper and a permanent increase to JobSeeker, is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on expensive, suited-up consultants to tell it how to sell its punitive, backwards IR bill.

But we can do Porter’s work for him. Why not save the Attorney General some money, and let politicians know what you think of the Morrison Government’s plans for industrial relations by signing Australian Unions’ petition?

Date Published: 05/02/2021 Category: Industrial Relations Opinion Workers rights Working life

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