The gap between work and choices

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  • Published 20070202
  • ISBN: 9780733320569
  • Extent: 280 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

ON THE GRASS outside an abattoir on the Western Plains of New South Wales, in the dark, cool air, a few workers are forming the late-night shift of a picket. Some journalists are hanging around, talking to them.

It is less than a week after the federal government’s new industrial relations legislation, known as “WorkChoices”, has taken effect. The men are outside the Cowra abattoir, not inside, because they have received termination notices. Twenty-nine have been sacked from their jobs – for “operational reasons”. And they have been offered re-employment. To be precise, an unidentified twenty of them will be offered re-employment – if they go back to work for substantially less than what they had been earning before the new law came into force. The drop in pay is typically around $180 a week, nearly a quarter of their wage. For some shift workers, it is as much as $300 a week. The men are angry. Some do not know how they will meet their mortgage repayments on the lower rate of pay.

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