During the term of the previous Howard Liberal government, a system of employment contracts between employers and employees was introduced. Such workplace contracts clearly stated the rights and obligations of both parties and if either of them broke any of the terms in those contracts, then the agreement was null and void and the parties would go their separate ways. What could be fairer than that?
Of course as in all contracts, if one of the parties did not like the terms and conditions, they could be debated and negotiated. If those terms could not be modified to suit both parties, then they had the right not to sign the contract. For instance, if a potential employee did not like the pay rate offered or the hours, he could either demand that the contract be modified or he had the perfect freedom to reject it and go and find another position with the terms that he desired.
Unfortunately, due to a massive propaganda and disinformation campaign by the trade union movement and its political arm, the Australian Labor Party, the Australian electorate was sucked into believing that the contracts, known as Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA), were unfair to employees, who did not have enough power to coerce employers into modifying those AWA to suit the employees and thus were forced to sign them to get jobs. Of course this was a ludicrous position, simply because in Australia, nobody is forced to sign anything they do not like.
Unfortunately, the Howard Liberal government lost the election over this issue and the Rudd Labor government immediately stepped in and started plans to abolish AWAs. In an effort to save their electoral skins, the Liberals even agreed that abandoning the contract system was a good thing. In fact it was an act of complete cowardice and left employers at the mercy of rapacious employees, who could blackmail and damage employers in many ways.
It was reported in the media that trade union bosses were rubbing their hands in glee, as they could see themselves back in a position of power to use coercion and blackmail against employers to gain control over workplaces. In the previous era of Labor governments under Hawke, Keating and Whitlam, unions ran rampant and virtually destroyed Australia's industrial base, to the extent that unemployment was extremely high. Employers just abandoned operating in Australia under union thuggery and deliberate sabotage, such as interrupting vital concrete pours midstream.
With the Rudd Labor government giving trade unions extraordinary powers to invade workplaces under virtually any pretext and use the vehicle of collective bargaining to coerce employers into providing pay and conditions that would make their businesses unviable in many cases, Australia again faced the prospect of high unemployment and those who created the jobs fleeing Australia to set up their businesses overseas, to the detriment of Australian workers and the nation as a whole.
The abolishing of the former Liberal government's Workchoices industrial laws resulted in a situation where employers were being literally blackmailed by unscrupulous employees who used the unfair dismissal provisions to either keep jobs to which they were not suited or to coerce employers into paying them huge severance settlements so that court action would not be taken by them.
The proof of this comes from Fair Work Australia, whose own statistics show that claims for unfair dismissal by employees have continued to rise under the Fair Work Act, prompting employers to complain they are being caught up in costly, time-consuming legal proceedings. In fact, more than 3200 unfair dismissal claims were made in the first three months of 2011, with 79% settled after conciliation.
The Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry stated that if the trend continued the number of claims for the first six months of 2011 would exceed the 6279 lodged in the second half of 2010. Alexandra Marriott, the Chamber's manager of workplace relations policy, said that the changes to unfair dismissal laws meant that employers now more than ever were being tied up in matters before Fair Work Australia, costing them time and money.
"The statistics suggest termination is a trigger for employees to claim unfair dismissal, whether or not procedural fairness has been afforded, with the high levels of conciliated outcomes bringing with them tales of a revival of the payment of 'go away' money to claimants," Ms Marriott said.
That's exactly what happens. Just as it was under the former Labor governments of Keating and Hawke, where union thuggery was rampant and employees could blackmail their bosses into paying "go-away" money, the same scenario has arisen under the Fair Work Act. Unscrupulous employees again are empowered by the Labor government into being able to extort "go-away" money from employers by threatening to drag them to a costly tribunal.
Of course the Fair Work laws are everything but fair. They are highly discriminatory and completely biased against the very people who create the wealth and provide the jobs. They are probably the best reason for any business to never have employees, but to always use subcontractors.
In October 2011, after many months of deliberate industrial action by militant unionists who boasted that they were going to slowly cook Qantas unless their demands for increased pay and guarantees of job security were met, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce took the unprecedented action of grounding the entire airline worldwide and locking out Qantas employees. This shocked not only the unionists, who suddenly realised that their employer also had the right to go on strike, but the Gillard Labor government that had been backing the militant unionists in their industrial sabotage.
The government was forced to step in and ask Fair Work Australia to force the unions to stop their industrial action immediately to allow Qantas to start flying operations. The Qantas grounding was a masterstroke by Alan Joyce that stopped the unionists from taking further action until a settlement was reached between them and the airline. However, Joyce also refused to budge one inch regarding the claims of the unionists and the entire matter went to forced arbitration, where Qantas was under no obligation to agree to any demands from unionists that it found to be onerous or unacceptable.
The Qantas grounding showed that the Fair Work Act gave power to militant unionists only if employers were too scared to take action against them and this is the reason why militant industrial action has skyrocketed under the Rudd/Gillard Labor government. However, as more employers use their own power to shut down or severely curtail their operations, throwing militant unionists out of work if they try to sabotage those companies, the industrial landscape may improve. But in one amazing demonstration of backbone and resolve, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce showed both the union movement and the government that he was not to be trifled with.
Under the new workplace laws, employers virtually have no rights. They cannot dismiss employees unless they can provide a number of reasons that are acceptable to the government. For instance, an employee who is rude to clients, or who does not work diligently as the employer desires, must be given a number of written warnings before he can be sacked and given time to modify his behaviour. In the meantime, that employee can destroy the employer's business before he is finally dismissed.
On top of that, the employee can still drag the employer before a tribunal and cost the employer a small fortune in legal fees, even if the employer proves that the employee was fairly dismissed. It is almost unheard of for a former employee to have legal costs awarded against him - it is the hapless employer who is penalised every time, even though his dismissal action may be completely vindicated by the tribunal.
This literally makes slaves out of employers, who find it too daunting to face such onerous procedures and are thus forced to retain employees whom they neither want, need, nor like. Under the workplace laws, it is probably actually easier to divorce a spouse than to sack an employee.
An employer literally cannot get rid of a bad employee without incurring a lot of trouble and costing him a lot of money. Once an employee passes the three month trial period, he is then permanently employed and can change his behaviour and work ethic completely, to the detriment of the employer, knowing that the employer has to jump through many expensive hoops to get rid of him. But the same does not apply to the employee.
For instance, an employee can literally walk off the job at any time, even at a most critical moment, such as in the middle of a concrete pour costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, to take up a new job elsewhere. All that employee will lose is his wages for a couple of weeks and possibly some redundancy pay. The employer cannot demand that the employee fulfil his obligations to stay on the job and give the required notice.
But can an employer fire a bad employee on the spot? Yes he can, but he will be forced to pay all entitlements, redundancy pay and then most probably be dragged through a very expensive tribunal that may even order him to reinstate that bad employee against his will. The fact is that the new workplace laws are completely unfair to employers, those entrepreneurs who have taken all the risks to establish their businesses and who create the jobs that keep people from being on the dole.
Those employers are forced literally at the point of a legal gun to retain bad employees, whereas employees can literally drop their tools and walk away without hardly any penalty at all, even if this costs their employers millions of dollars. Is this fair? Of course it is not fair.
Under the current workplace laws, an employer is not permitted to discriminate against potential employees on the grounds of their age, race, colour, sex, religion, disability, national origin and pregnancy if the potential employee is a woman. An employer is actually prohibited from demanding this information. This of course is highly discriminatory in itself.
For example, a Jewish businessman is not permitted to ask a potential employee if he is a Nazi. There would not be one Jewish person would want to associate with a Nazi, let alone have such a person on his payroll, but a Jewish employer is not allowed to find out who he is employing and could eventually find himself paying an anti-Semite who has infiltrated his business to destroy it from the inside. This sort of thing is insane and intolerable.
It is the same with other potential employees. For instance, I am an Atheist and do not believe in a God of any description. Devout Muslims follow a doctrine, written many times in their holy book, the Koran, which exhorts them to "kill Christians and Jews wherever they find them" and in fact kill all disbelievers. Their aims are borne out by daily reports of Islamic atrocities and terrorism all over the world. Right now in Australia, there are Muslims sitting in our jails who have been convicted of terrorism offences against Australians. To my knowledge, there are no non-Muslims in jail who have been convicted of trying to kill Australians because they were not of their religion.
So should I employ a person whose doctrine is to kill me and my family, just because the workplace laws prohibit me from ascertaining whether a potential employee might be a mortal risk to me? I would be crazy to do so and in fact I point-blank refuse to do so, despite the law. The same goes for age and sex. If I am going to employ a person, I demand the right to choose the one that suits me and if I want to employ a good looking young female instead of a decrepit old man as a secretary, that should be my right - but under the law, I don't have that right and this is why the anti-discrimination laws discriminate against my freedom to choose who I want to employ and who I want to have around me.
The workplace laws are unfair, discriminatory and onerous - against employers. However, like all unfair laws, there are ways to get around them and here are some tactics that employers can adopt to beat these idiotic laws.
At the moment, despite the fact that the Labor government that made it so onerous for employers had been removed from power, employers are still very severely discriminated against. They are not legally permitted to select potential employees on many of the grounds that are of vital importance to their businesses and their personal preferences. However, employees are not bound by such requirements and can literally do whatever they want. This situation needs to be rectified, however there is no chance of that as long as the Labor Party, the political arm of the trade union movement is in power.
Therefore, employers need to fight back to regain the rights that they are being denied, such as the right to choose the people they wish to employ, being able to fire the people they do not wish to employ any further and demanding that their employees be bound to the same legal and contractual obligations to which employers are bound. What is good for the goose is good for the gander and smart employers will know how to get around the completely unfair workplace laws.