Page 1103 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005
that workers in the private sector can access their pro rata long service leave entitlements after seven years rather than 10, and that applies to community sector employees.
In relation to some of the comments that Dr Foskey made: this government, when we were first elected, ensured that millions of dollars—I cannot remember the actual figure because it was in Minister Wood’s portfolio—that had not flowed on to allow for SACS award increases was provided to the community sector. As I have said before, the work that we are doing now to actually scope the situation in the community sector to look at whether we can have EBAs in the community sector, and to do this work through the community sector task force, has already begun and is a key priority for me.
We do not walk away from our responsibilities to the community sector, but we need to be able to afford the increases that may come from this work. We also need to know that they are flowing on to employees. Quite often in the community sector, a grant is provided to an organisation; they then determine how that grant is acquitted; and there has not been a great deal of information provided back to the government in relation to industrial relations obligations. We need that work to be done. That is part of the task force’s work, because, like in any area, there are, I believe, operators in the community sector that do not do the right thing by their employees. We need to make sure that we are tightening up our responsibilities around that area.
In relation to AWAs: I differ strongly from the position put by Mr Mulcahy. I do not think they have been a great new measure introduced in the industrial relations framework. I think individual contracts were always able to be entered into prior to the Workplace Relations Act, but the AWAs being introduced under that federal legislation have hidden those arrangements, made them less transparent and, in many cases, divided workplaces and ensured, certainly in the public sector where they have been used, a lack of transparency as to who is getting what for the same job. I do not think that has necessarily benefited those with the least bargaining power. I think it has probably worked to the benefit of those who can bargain very strongly for their own position.
That is why we have always been in support of the no-disadvantage test, which was required by federal law, to ensure that all AWAs are accessing minimum conditions of industry and that people are not forced to negotiate below agreed wage and condition levels. We have had some concerns about whether that test has been adhered to—not just the ACT government but governments around the country—and we are certainly not convinced that the no-disadvantage test has actually worked or has actually been capable of delivering fair outcomes for employees.
In conclusion, the ACT government believes that workplaces must provide employees with work practices which support the choices they make about family formation, the care of children, of elderly family members, transitions out of and back into work for carers and the ongoing management of caring responsibilities. I have concerns about any agreement that leaves open questions such as casual leave loading and entire wages packets for casuals. I also have concerns about any agreement that leaves open the minimum hours of work that can be set for an employee.
It is important that we in this chamber ensure that people are not falling through the cracks and are not being forced into the poorest working conditions, well below what we believe is acceptable community standards. So I support the motion brought forward by