“Now we have the proof: The Howard government’s multi-million dollar advertising campaign to sell Work Choices is built on the lie that workers are better off under individual contracts than collective agreements”, Sam Wainwright, the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Fremantle in the coming federal election, said on October 4.
The Australia@Work report by the University of Sydney’s Workplace Research Centre contradicts Australian Bureau of Statistics figures that claimed workers on AWAs earn 9% more than those on collective agreements. The ABS report was based only on data in the first eight weeks of Work Choices (i.e. up to May 2006). The new study is based on data gathered up until July this year.
Wainwright works and lives in the Fremantle electorate. He is a wharfie at the DP World container terminal at North Quay and an active member of the Maritime Union of Australia, editing its West Australian journal.
“Many workers on AWAs have lost a lot more because the averages are inflated by the much higher pay currently being paid to a small section of the work force while the mineral boom lasts”, Wainwright explained.
“The report also reveals that Australian workers have some of the longest working hours in the world. More than a fifth work 50 hours or more a week. Miners work an average 55-hour week, and 21% of all workers wished they could work fewer hours.”
The report adds that 46% of all people on AWAs say they had no opportunity to negotiate the contents of the contracts. Of 177,000 people who moved onto AWAs this year, 56% said there was no negotiation.
“The Howard government has shown itself to be morally bankrupt and a policy disaster zone regarding its anti-worker Work Choices laws, but the ALP has failed to provide any real opposition”, Wainwright added.
“[Labor leader] Kevin Rudd thinks it’s enough to just tinker around the edges. He’s caved in to pressure from big business and agreed to allow AWAs to continue, potentially indefinitely. This is wrong. AWAs should be abolished completely. Individual contracts spell brutal exploitation and are a fundamental attack on workers’ rights to organise collectively.
“Poll after poll shows that Australians hate Work Choices, they want these anti-worker laws buried. Eighteen months ago [then Labor leader] Kim Beazley was promising to tear up Work Choices, but Kevin Rudd has been caving in to big business pressure and every day says he will leave more in place.
“Instead of getting rid of Work Choices, Rudd is serving up Work Choices Lite. This is not good enough, it’s all got to go.”
Wainwright is a former ALP member and was secretary of Young Labor in Tasmania, where he grew up. “Like many people I had my heart broken by Labor’s pro-privatisation and pro-big business policies. I think the way it has been seeking out so-called celebrity candidates and taking donations from big business symbolises the party it’s become.
“We’ve got to see the back of Howard, which is why the Socialist Alliance will be directing our preferences to the Greens and then Labor. But it’s very clear that Rudd will have to be dragged kicking and screaming to do the right thing by Australian workers and our communities. If my campaign helps do that, then I’ll consider it a success.”