New research report: 'WorkChoices' pernicious for working families

Monday, 7 November 2005

The Howard Government's proposed changes to Australia's industrial relations system have been described as "pernicious" in their effects on Australian working families in a new research report.

The report was prepared for the Victorian Government by Associate Professor Barbara Pocock, Research Fellow in the University of Adelaide's Discipline of Gender and Labour Studies in the School of Social Sciences.

The report analyses the thrust of the Workplace Relations Amendment (Work Choices) Bill 2005 against the background of Australia's changing labour market and its challenges.

"Australia needs more productive workplaces, but not at the cost of families. Indeed, international evidence shows that countries like Australia have to improve work and family supports to boost labour supply - not cut existing standards," Dr Pocock says.

The report points out that Australia lags behind the industrialised world on work and family supports, with a poor leave regime and a high proportion of workers - especially those with families - who work unsocial or long hours, and high levels of insecure work.

"Industrial relations reform should be focussed on fixing these challenges," Dr Pocock says.

"Unfortunately, 'WorkChoices' will exacerbate them.

"While many countries are improving their work and family arrangements, 'WorkChoices' swims in the opposite direction."

The five components of the 'Fair pay and conditions standard' represent a retreat on national work and family standards by incorporating only basic family leave provisions and failing to incorporate the right for parents to request extended parental leave, part-time work or more shared parental leave.

The capacity to 'sell' two weeks annual leave will reduce common family time, with negative effects on children and parents.

The scope to set aside key award conditions in Australian Workplace Agreementss (especially public holidays and penalty, shift and overtime loadings) will be especially disadvantageous for families.

"This is a pernicious change, which will see both long and unsocial hours increase. The international evidence about the negative effects of these on workers and children - documented in the report - is extensive and robust," Dr Pocock says

"The Australian Industrial Relations Commission has been the source of all recent general work and family advances.

"Under 'WorkChoices' it will lose this role. It is hard to see where future general advances will now come from. This will especially affect the most vulnerable who cannot bargain alone."

The report, titled 'The Impact of 'WorkChoices' on Australian Working Families' is downloadable here.


Contact Details

Associate Professor Barbara Pocock
Queen Elizabeth II Fellow in Labour Studies
School of Social Sciences
University of Adelaide.
Business: 8313 3736
Mobile: 0414 244 606

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762