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Spotlight on « Previous | |Next »
June 2, 2006

Spotlight was a classic moment in the IR conflict. What was highlighted in federal Parliament by the ALP was that employees at Spotlight, a Melbourne-based chain of 100 fabrics and homewares stores, have lost a lot under the new AWA agreement. One of the staff in Spotlight's Coffs Harbour shop, Annette Harris, has become a cause celebre of the WorkChoices resistance movement. The company offered her a new contract which removed her shift penalties and other benefits worth $90 a week, in return for a new rate of pay which lifted her income by 2 cents an hour.

Spotlight employees had lost the following: all penalty rates including for public holidays; all overtime; rest breaks; shift allowances; sick leave allowances; rostered days off; uniform allowances; meal allowances; and first aid allowances. Furthermore, there will be no restrictions on the number of consecutive days employees can be required to work without a break, and no minimum break between shifts. For this, the employee receives a pay increase of 2c to $14.30 an hour.

The effective reduction in wages was legal and not an an isolated incident.

The Federal Government's Employment Advocate, Peter McIlwain, told a Senate committee on Monday that his office had analysed 250 of the 6263 AWAs lodged in the first month of the new system.

Of this sample of new workplace deals, 40 per cent stripped workers' entitlement to public holidays; 52 per cent reduced their shift loading payments; 63 per cent cut penalty rates; and 64 per cent removed leave loading payments. Were these workers offered higher levels of base pay in return for losing these entitlements? It was not possible to say, based on the information available, said McIlwain.

But it was clear that 22 per cent of the sampled agreements allowed for no pay rises in the life of the agreement, he said, implying that, after adjusting for inflation, these workers would face falling real wages.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:58 AM | | Comments (10)


Australia practices American style capitalism, which is consumer dependent. I am not sure why trampling on wage inflation in this manner would procure any benefit.

Other nations are willing to fund us with cheap credit while we have inflating wages and purchase madly. Our economy is dependent on us consuming without end as well. Increasing consumerism relies on increasing disposable income.

Don't worry Cameron, this is all about shifting the money more towards those who possess capital now.

They can up their discretionary spending to make up for the ordinary families that will now just make enough to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.

Can't have those uppitty poor actually getting too far ahead.

Let's face it, being an ordinary wage earner is basically the new serfdom.


The government justification for Workchoice lowering wages?

It is a rung on the ladder to enable the shift from welfare to work to take place. Though they will work for much less in a deregulated labour market they are better off than being on welfare benefits.

Lower wages create employment.

Gary,"Lower wages create employment"Is this tongue in cheek or are you serious?. Well you may be right,I have given it a bit of thought.Now let me see lower wages=more yachts,holidays in the swiss alps,which means more ski's,and for the female filthy rich more sex toys/toy boys who after all need feeding.And of course if we wern't making the odd lear jet my god where would we be at.Now where was I ?Oh yes my wife just called me,the boxing is on the tele.

re:'"Lower wages create employment"Is this tongue in cheek or are you serious?'

That is John Howard's hard edged defence of Workchoices in Federal Parliament last week. It marked the point when Howard stopped the softly-softly approach and openly embraced the raw purpose of the system - allowing companies to cut wages to increase profits and corporate control. Howard reckoned this would create more jobs.

The theory is that labour deregulation and lower wages will generate investment by business, more economic growth and that this will create new jobs for those shifting from welfare to work.

Gary,Sorry my F.U.I thought you joined the dark side.I must confess I did not read all of your article.

Big Bob, this is all about shifting the money more towards those who possess capital now.

I dont think it fits traditional class war patterns.

Frasernomics is the process of keeping inflation down by minimising public debt and attacking unions to keep wages low. This is a continuation of that IMO along with a federal grab for power from the states.

Maybe Cameron, but the end result will be exactly that.

Sure, some employer's may pit on more staff, but most of the savings from ripping workers off will flow to owners/shareholders.

Of course, most of us through Super will benefit slightly, but not as much as the wealthy who can plow major amounts of cash into their tax friendly superannuation.

As has been pointed out by others, if this is the quality of AWA's being offerred when we are travelling fairly well economically, with low unemployment and high company profits, what is going to be dragged out of the cupboard come the inevitable downturn?

It will be interesting to see how this filters up through management and professionals when the economy does hit the wall.

It is more than 'shifting the money more towards those who possess capital now.' There are also changes within the workforce.

AWA's do allow those with scarce skills and knowledge to gain better conditions and greater rewards for themselves during an economic boom. Not so for those with low skills, as we are seeing with the Spotlight case. As they have little to negotiate with, they are worse off.

This skilled/nonskilled division within the workforce is deepened by the two speed economy in Australia--boomtimes in WA and Queensland and a downturn in south eastern Australia. An economic downturn in a deregulated labour market means reduced wages and working conditions for those in an manufacturing industry that is increasingly moving offshore.

Big changes are happening in the Australian economy.

Bigbob, Maybe Cameron, but the end result will be exactly that.

Most of the people making the decisions to enforce workchoice agreements on others are most likely salaried workers. The modern wealthy (not ultra-wealthy) are salaried. Look at most of the CEOs of big companies, they are salaried and give themselves massive bonuses in shares, but they arent owners or shareholders in the traditional style of capital.

It is faceless Human Relations departments in large companies that are doing this.

Gary, Not so for those with low skills as we are seeing with the Spotlight case.

Yes, it is hardest on commodity labor that traditionally has used collective bargaining to try and even up the power imbalance.

If anything this will help escalate the credentialling crisis in the labour markets.