Many workers are seeing the new ITEA’s they have signed fail the no disadvantage test.
What’s going on?
When John Howard introduced AWA’s in 1997 employers were given the greatest advantage they had seen since the federation of Australian. They were given the ability to write individual contracts for workers without any regard to the awards that applied anywhere in Australia. They could literally write any terms that they wanted and the government ensured that they were deemed to be acceptable, not matter how bad. Employers in the meat industry leapt onto this arrangement like seagulls onto chips. They wrote contracts that eliminated working conditions, making the meat industry a miserable place to work.
This had 2 major affects.
On the one hand these employers were able to make huge profits and stand over workers like never before. On the other hand, labour turnover increased dramatically and the word got out, “don’t work in the meat industry”. Labour turnover increased so dramatically that the industry ran out of labour and had to turn to overseas immigrant workers.
With the demise of the Howard government the new Labor government immediately moved to reintroduce a proper no disadvantage test which meant that workplace agreements could no longer be worse than the relevant award. They also outlawed new AWA’s, but allowed a transitional arrangement for individual contracts until the 31st December 2009, called ITEA’s. All ITEA’s are required to be assessed against the no disadvantage test and because most of them are exactly the same terms as the old AWA’s, they are failing the test.
Why? Simple. They are worse than the award. The test applies to the whole of the agreement. It compares the whole deal to the award and determines whether or not the whole deal is as good as the award or not. If it’s not, it fails.
Some employers are telling their workers to ignore letters that they are getting from the Workplace Authority that advice the workers that their agreement has failed the test.
Some employers are telling these workers that they have “lawyers onto it”, and not to worry about it. Rubbish! What they are really saying is that they are arrogant enough to think that they can challenge the new workplace laws and keep their old shabby rip off deals in place.
We can tell you it won’t happen. These employers simply have to accept that play time is over for them and now they are just going to have to pay proper wages and conditions to their workers.
This is what we fought for in the election. It has been a long time coming but Australia has had enough of those deals and now e will return to workers being protected from rip off contracts. If your ITEA has failed the test then you are currently under the award.
If you are in this category then you should contact the union office to make sure that you are getting your award entitlements. If a company is underpaying you then we will get back pay for you. This will be a big transition for workers who have been under AWA’s for a while too, because many of them don’t even know how bad the deals are or what they have lost by not being under the award or a proper union collective agreement.