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$14k pay cuts? Here’s why the major parties are fighting over an old bill

·2-min read
PM Scott Morrison and young man baking bread.
The Coaltion's ambiguous stance on industrial relations has unions asking questions. (Source: Reuters, Getty)

Speculation about a resurrected Omnibus Industrial Relations Bill has sparked fresh concerns about worker pay cuts.

The revival of the contentious better-off-overall test (BOOT) changes has Labor warning it could lead to a wage cut of $14,000 a year for some professions.

On Saturday, the Morrison Government alluded to the return of the scrapped policies from the original industrial relations bill.

The Government has since clarified it would not revisit the controversial changes to the BOOT that never made it through Parliament the first time round, dismissing Labor’s attacks as a “scare campaign”.

As it stands, the BOOT means the Fair Work Commission (FWC) can only approve enterprise agreements if they improve workers’ positions as compared to industry minimums.

The bill, introduced last year, wanted to see the BOOT requirement waived for two years as a COVID-recovery measure.

The suggestion was supported by business groups but poorly received by the Opposition and unions, and was eventually scrubbed from the bill and never made it into legislation.

So, do workers still need to be worried?

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) boss, Sally McManus, is not convinced the matter has been put to bed.

“The Prime Minister is saying one thing and doing another – his plans to cut wages and undermine the rights of working people are still in place,” McManus said.

She pointed to a host of other contentious changes in the IR Omnibus Bill that had not been ruled out by the Government’s comments yesterday.

For example, it could support secret deals by allowing employers to commence bargaining 28 days before advising employees of their right to be represented at the bargaining table, according to the union.

It could also allow employers to undercut existing agreements and benefits by transferring staff to new entities with inferior pay and conditions to perform the same work.

Business groups have voiced their support for another look at the BOOT changes.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Andrew McKellar told the SMH the FWC, “should be able to listen to employees and employers, and be able to apply practical, common-sense rules”.

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