IR battle lines drawn

The union movement has intensified its national campaign against the federal government’s workplace reforms, holding a national day of action. The ACTU said the protests attracted 300,000 people across the country, with the biggest rally held in Melbourne attracting 150,000. Other estimates were more conservative, estimating 80,000 in Melbourne, 40,000 in Sydney and smaller crowds in Brisbane, Adelaide, Darwin and Perth. Unions WA embarked on its very own name and shame bus tour, targeting “scumbag employers”. Since the Work Choices laws came into effect in March, about 14 per cent of all AWAs analysed by the office of the employment advocate have been found to be underpaying workers, while 11 per cent have breached leave standards. Individual workplace agreements are now at the forefront of the dispute, following federal opposition leader Kim Beazley’s pledge to repeal the agreements and reinstate collective bargaining, if a Labour government wins the next election. In a blow to Prime Minister John Howard’s reforms, Woodside Energy confirmed its 3,200 permanent staff on its North-West shelf gas project were all employed on common law contracts.

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