Employment Protection Minister John Bowler said Western Australian employers needed to ensure they offered real choices when employing new employees.
“The State Government’s employment protection policy is focussed on creating fairer, safer and more productive workplaces,” Mr Bowler said.
“We believe collective bargaining is the best way of achieving all three objectives and that is why both employers and workers should carefully consider what form of employment contract they want.”
The Minister urged workers to consider the implications of signing an Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA), even in industries such as mining.
Mr Bowler said companies should offer workers a real choice, which would include a collective agreement involving their union of choice, and employers should respect employees’ decisions to be part of such an agreement.
“While it may appear that AWAs in the mining industry have benefits beyond award structures, workers need to consider the effects of these agreements,” he said.
The Minister said there was considerable evidence that workers signing an AWA contributed to a reduction in union representation in workplaces and therefore a decline in the health and safety standards, job security and reduction in the ability to bargain collectively for better pay and conditions.
Mr Bowler said that as AWAs were not underpinned by awards or collective agreements, cuts to wages and conditions were far easier to introduce.
This was WA’s experience with the Court-Kierath workplace agreement system which operated from 1993 to 2002. In 2002, the Labor Government abolished this unfair system, partly because of the considerable evidence of below award workplace agreements in industries such as hospitality, retail, cleaning and security.
Mr Bowler said his Federal counterparts were still finalising transitional arrangements once a Labor Government scrapped AWAs.
He said the State Government would continue its opposition to the Federal Government’s so-called WorkChoices legislation and the subsequent reduction of entitlements and benefits in many AWAs.
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