Fairness test biased: ACTU

by 25 Jul 2007

In assessing the fairness of Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA), the newly established Workplace Authority will only contact employers and does not intend to contact employees if there is any doubt as to whether or not AWAs meet the criteria for the Federal Government’s new ‘fairness test’.

This is proof that the fairness test is biased against workers, according to ACTU president Sharan Burrow. “We always suspected the so-called fairness test was a sham and now this proves it is one-sided and biased against workers,” she said.

“The government has confirmed employers will automatically get a say but their employees won’t when the IR laws are used to take away workers’ rights to penalty rates, overtime pay and other job conditions.”

This means employees could have no opportunity to verify or refute the information that their employer provides to the Workplace Authority about the loss of award conditions, she said.

The Workplace Authority recently announced that both employers and employees would be contacted where an AWA is deemed to have passed the fairness test. Other employers will also be contacted by email to provide more information to help the Workplace Authority assess their agreements for the test.

However, Joe Hockey, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, said the fairness test will ensure employees receive fair compensation where protected award conditions such as penalty rates are modified or traded off in a workplace agreement.

“The starting point for trading off penalty rates will be money,” he said. “If non-monetary compensation like childcare or parking is agreed between the employer and employee it must be of equivalent monetary value to what is being traded off.”

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