As the festive season is upon us and the national parliament wraps up for 2020, the Morrison Government decided it was the perfect time to attack workers’ rights by introducing its latest industrial relations bill. If they were honest about their intentions and the reasons why they are proposing to severely undercut workers’ rights and pay, they would’ve announced these changes earlier in the year or even in the new year but instead they have chosen to do it a fortnight out from Christmas.
The Bill fails the Government’s own test that workers won’t be worse off because these changes will leave workers worse off, deliberately. Ensuring workers weren’t going to be worse off because of any changes to our IR system was agreed up front in the IR discussions between unions, the government and employers.
Australians have suffered significantly from the pandemic not just in lives disrupted and our social and cultural norms being turned upside-down. The pandemic has seen almost a million Australians unemployed and 1.4 million are underemployed; many have exhausted all their sick leave, annual leave and long service leave; and 3.3 million people have raided their super account.
Clearly the Morrison Government doesn’t think “we’re all in this together”. The Government’s changes will make jobs less secure by making it easier for employers to casualise permanent jobs and allow employers to pay workers less than the award safety net. This is the opposite of what the country needs.
If the mantra is about saving Australian small businesses, then they need people with secure jobs and money in their pocket. Any cuts to pay or loss of rights for workers will make recovery harder and longer. Couple this with international uncertainty over COVID the proposed changes will significantly hurt workers and our local businesses. If we actually want to come out of the pandemic stronger, we need a strong local economy where people have the confidence to spend, buying local goods and services.
We can’t rebuild our economy by threatening to cut workers take home pay by giving more power to employers. If we take money away from workers, people won’t spend. It’s a simple equation that when finances are tight people don’t go on spending sprees. If people aren’t spending, it will ultimately hurt local businesses, further damaging our already frail economy.
The Morrison Government fails to deliver a way out of this crisis if it continues to give employers more and more rights and especially the ability to leave workers worse off by cutting pay. Australian workers have already shown enormous flexibility. For decades we’ve been told about how flexibility benefits workers, but the truth is that it has only ever favoured employers. These changes won’t deal with the fact that wages are not keeping up with the cost of living. It won’t protect insecure workers that need to work multiple casual or part-time jobs to just pay the rent or mortgage and keep food on the table. How much more do workers have to give before workers are given a fair go?
It’s time Scott Morrison stepped up to protect workers instead of attacking them at Christmas time.