This week the Senate will be voting on the Morrison Government’s industrial relations (IR) Bill. Let’s break down what this Bill could mean for you and why it must be stopped.

What exactly is the IR Bill?

So, you know how in Australia we have national workplace laws called the Fair Work System that sets out the rights of workers and the obligations of employers?

Erm, I do now. Go on.

Well, the Morrison Government has introduced a Bill called the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 to change some of these rights and obligations.

Ok, with you so far. Why are they doing that?

Morrison announced a shake-up of the system in May last year, in response to the economic fall-out from the pandemic, telling the National Press Club, “We now have a shared opportunity to fix systemic problems and to realise gains as a matter of urgency to get more people back into work.”

That seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

For sure. Even before the pandemic, there were some serious issues with our IR system like record low wage growth and failures in the enterprise bargaining system. That’s why Australian Unions were willing to work with the Government to turn those issues around. Or as ACTU Secretary Sally McManus put it at the time:

“Australian Unions want to see a better, stronger and fairer Australia and that’s why we will take up the opportunity to sit down with employers and with the Government to discuss that.”

But Australian Unions also made clear that we would NOT support a bill that leaves workers worse off.

I’m guessing then that the IR Reform Bill is not a good thing for workers?

Ah, no. If anything, this Bill is anti-worker.

Have a watch of ACTU President Michele O’Neil summarising just how bad it is.

Wait, did she say this Bill will make work more insecure? Now? When we’re trying to recover from the pandemic?

Yup. Unbelievable isn’t it.

The Morrison Government is calling this Bill an ‘overhaul’ of the system, but it feels more like a kick in the guts for workers who have already sacrificed so much over the last year. Take casual and part-time workers for example. Here’s how they stand to lose in these changes:

  • Employers will have power to define any job as casual through individual employment contracts
  • Proposals for casuals to convert to permanent work are very easy for employers to avoid
  • Part time workers will have their pay cut, losing their right to overtime pay
  • Part time workers will be treated like casuals but without the usual casual loading.
  • Part time workers will lose certainty and predictability of rosters and pay

If you want to know more you can read our explainer about the proposed law changes here.

Oh. I don’t like the sound of these changes at all. Can it be stopped?

Here’s the thing. Because the Senate have begun debating the Bill, we don’t have long to go until the senators will vote to make it law.

The good news is, we have already convinced some key crossbenchers to support workers but there is more to do.

We need One Nation Senators Malcolm Roberts and Pauline Hanson and Centre Alliance Senator Stirling Griff to reject the proposed changes.

And you can help!

Really, how can I help?

Send a message to the key cross-bench senators asking them to stop this dangerous bill.

We’ve made it really easy for you, with a nifty little email tool you can use here.

Let’s get this done.

Tell the crossbench to vote down these anti-worker laws.

Want more real stories?

Date Published: 16/03/2021 Category: Break It Down For Me

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