There were so many of these side deals to use taxpayer funds to push up unionised workers’ pay that the Gillard government tried (and sometimes succeeded) it is hard to keep up: there was the age care fund for unionised workers; there was the deal for some child care workers (of the favoured centres which were given the heads-up to apply early); and then there was this one about cleaners of Commonwealth buildings (there were only about 20 contracts, evidently, signed under the ‘guidelines’.
So that’s fair: some cleaners get inflated above-market pay, courtesy of the Australian taxpayer, and all other cleaners do not. What’s not to love about that?
(There were lots of other scams of a similar variety eg. the Road Transport Remuneration Tribunal, the Better Shipping ‘reforms’, the support of the substantial increase in pay under the Social and Community Services Award. Cats can probably nominate some more. It will take some time for the Abbott government to get to the bottom of them all; not all are reversible.)
Here’s the story: I am not sure Abetz has won; I guess we will see.
EMPLOYMENT Minister Eric Abetz has taken extraordinary action to bypass the Senate and enforce pay cuts on commonwealth cleaners.
Labor successfully moved amendments yesterday in the upper house that were aimed at forcing the government to back down on plans to scrap changes to the guidelines that control the pay rates of cleaners.
Labor and unions said the amendments were a victory for commonwealth cleaners who would have had their minimum rate of pay cut from $22.02 an hour to $17.49 an hour.
But a spokesman for Senator Abetz revealed last night that the minister “signed an instrument revoking the guidelines” before the bill passed the parliament yesterday.
“This reflects the government’s commitment to revoking the cleaning services guidelines by July 1,’’ the spokesman said.
If the minister’s action results in the scrapping of the guidelines, as Senator Abetz claimed, unions and the ALP are likely to seek legal advice on the move, and whether it can be subject to challenge.
Labor’s amendments sought the continuation of the guidelines but the government believes it has been able to “gazump” the opposition by having the guidelines scrapped before the bill takes effect.
The government’s move, if it stands, will result in significant pay cuts for commonwealth cleaners
In March, it was revealed the government wanted to abolish the guidelines as part of the Coalition’s “red tape” repeal day.
The guidelines were introduced by the former government and increase the wages of workers hired by businesses that have government contracts. If they are no longer in operation, unions say commonwealth cleaners face a 20 per cent pay cut.
David O’Byrne, acting national secretary of United Voice, said the guidelines prevented the exploitation of commonwealth cleaners.
“Far from being counterproductive, the guidelines ensure companies that provide cleaning services for the government must ensure their cleaners are properly paid and have decent working conditions,” he said.
“The guidelines were established because of the well-documented shocking record of employers in this industry.”