Weekly wrap: Forcing workers to sign contracts, minimum wage up, Aussies lose faith in boss

by Cameron Edmond21 Feb 2014
We looked beyond the Silicon Valley and Modern Family buzz to find this week’s most important news. Here’s what you need to know:

Fined for ‘applying duress’ to workers
Toyota Material Handling has been fined $49,550 in the Federal Circuit Court following an investigation and legal action by the FWO due to deliberately applying duress to three employees to make them sign workplace agreements.

The company applied pressure to the service technicians employed at an aluminium smelter at Kurri Kurri in a bid to get them to sign over to Individual Transitional Employment Agreements (ITEAs). Up until that point they had been working under Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs).

Toyota told the employees that if they did not sign off onto these agreements they would be rostered off their continuous shift work positions, resulting in substantial loss of earnings between $500 and $600 pw.

Minimum wage set for retailer
In the US, retailer Gap Inc. announced it would set a US$9 minimum hourly rate for its US workforce, which would then be upped to US$10 next year.

This comes about as the US federal government debates an increase to a minimum wage of US$10.10 an hour by 2016, The NY Post reported.

“To us, this is not a political issue. Our decision to invest in front-line employees will directly support our business, and is one that we expect to deliver a return many times over,” Glenn K. Murphy, chief executive of Gap, stated.

The use of higher wages regardless of government intervention recalls the current debate in Australia over penalty rates, which can be read about here.

Aussie workers lack faith in boss
A survey into workplace management by the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Workplace Leadership (CWL) found 75% of Australian workers feel they need better management and leadership.

“Australian workers lack faith in their leaders,” Professor Peter Gahan, of the CWL, said. “Leadership is the often neglected ingredient in productivity with studies showing that employees who have greater job satisfaction and motivation create workplaces that have productivity gains of 30%.”

The study surveyed over 2,000 workers and found 25% do not have someone in their workplace who they view as a good leader, with 35% of senior and middle managers lacking a workplace role model.

Abbott to freeze pay rises
As part of the Federal Government’s new employment and workplace relations policy, public servants are expected to receive pay rises as little as 1.5% a year or none at all, unless they agree to surrender some of their combined carers’ and sick leave and accept an annual cap of 15 days leave instead, Fairfax Media reported.

''Public sector workers are facing a double whammy: thousands of jobs are being cut and the remaining staff will get flogged harder to get the work done,'' Nadine Flood, national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, said. ''Secondly, nobody is going to get a pay rise that keeps up with inflation unless they agree to have their rights and conditions cut … that is a bridge too far, in our view. That sort of agenda from government will simply lead to conflict in the workplace.''


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