Change the Rules: The System is Broken

April 30, 2018 Member News Newsletters

The ACTU has mounted a national campaign titled ‘Change the Rules’. Quite simply, the rules are broken for working people. Wage rises have flat lined, too many people have jobs which are insecure and inequality is at a 70 year high.

The gap between the very rich and everyone else is at record highs. We need to change the rules for more secure jobs, for fair pay rises and to ensure that worker’ rights can be enforced.
Change the rules: Out of date agreements sending workers backwards

Negotiating wages and conditions through Enterprise Bargaining Agreements is core business for the SDA. We have a proud history of negotiating strong outcomes for workers, but a flaw in current laws means workers can be stuck on out of date agreements made many years ago.

The SDA is increasingly finding circumstances where an agreement will expire but there’s no movement from the employer to update and negotiate a new one.

These agreements are well past their due date, but there’s no provision in Australia’s workplace laws that require an employer or company to negotiate for a new agreement.

The problem is, if an agreement expires and there’s not a new one put in place, workers are stuck with conditions that are not improving.

The rules need to change

The SDA keeps the pressure on employers to get back to the negotiating table when an agreement expires. The SDA proactively works to find and terminate expired agreements that rip off workers.
The SDA will continue to work hard to put a stop to these out of date agreements but the fact is – industrial laws are failing to protect workers from this.

Fair Work legislation is what governs workplaces through laws and regulations, including the approval of agreements, reviewing of Modern Awards and decisions on other industrial matters like penalty rates and rights for casual workers.

This loophole in legislation that allows employers and companies to get away with operating under long expired agreements must be closed. The rules need to change.

Restoring penalty rates

Penalty rates must be restored to pre-July 2017 levels and the law should be changed to stop business imposing any further cuts to workers pay.

End wage theft

Wage theft is a drag on wages. Too many employers have to compete with businesses who are not even abiding by legal minimums. Our workplace laws need to change so working people can quickly and easily recover wages and superannuation that is stolen and there are strong disincentives for employers to break the law and powers for workplace representatives to ensure vulnerable workers aren’t being ripped off.

A Living Wage

Australians need a living wage. No full-time worker should live in poverty and right now too many are. A living wage would immediately benefit all workers currently on the minimum wage, and will flow through the awards system, benefiting around 2.3 million workers who are award reliant.

Securing equal pay for women

Our workplace laws have been unable to move the gender pay gap. We need to establish a Pay Equity Panel that is dedicated to achieving equal pay for women. Women earn 15.3 percent less than men over their working lives and this has barely changed over the last 20 years. The gap persists through all stages of work and into retirement, when women can expect 47% less retirement savings. Many will retire in poverty.

ACTU ‘Change the Rules’ Campaign

The ACTU kicked off the campaign in late 2017 and it will continue right through to the federal election campaign and beyond. I am sure that members would have seen some of the advertisements appearing on TV, in newspapers and on social media.

As ACTU Secretary, Sally McManus says,
“Australia needs a pay rise and we have a plan that will deliver.
“Our plan will deliver an immediate wage increase for 2.3 million working people and restore the fair go for the lowest paid.
“The plan will also ensure that working people are not waiting for the non-existent ‘trickle-down effect’ to occur. Profits are up and productivity is up but wages are not. The only way to ensure working people get their fair share in pay rises is to ensure they have the power they need to negotiate them.
This will benefit every working person now and into the future. It is a permanent fix to unfair, low wage growth and will restore the balance to working people thus ensuring they get a fair go at work.”